The Life that Took Shape
Joe Faul’s artistic talent sprung from an unlikely start. Growing up as a teenager, Joe spent the early part of his education doodling and daydreaming in the margins of his notebooks. At the age of 17, he left home to join the Congregation of Holy Cross, Eastern Province of Priests and Brothers. There, outside of the classroom, Joe lent a hand on a farm. He worked with the brothers and became skilled at caring for the farm animals. When not tending to the horses, cows, and pigs, Joe spent his time praying and searching. Working outside, he started getting into cutting wood and clearing trees, a job he found fulfilling even when laborious. While clearing the land, Joe began collecting the odds and ends of the scrap wood. Unbeknownst to Joe at the time, saving them would prove quite worthwhile. It was in wood that he would soon discover his true passion. During his down time, Joe would carve the scraps of wood into gifts for family and friends. With no income, his creative mind came to light, making use of the materials around him. He would carve pieces for birthdays and Christmas time. These personal gifts, unique because of the maker, were warmly received. It was around this time that Joe came to know Father Anthony Louck, a priest who just happened to be the head of the art gallery at Notre Dame. Through Father Louck’s skilled guidance, Joe entered an apprenticeship at Notre Dame where his journey began to take shape.
Tons of Stories
Joe’s first big project certainly carried its own weight. At the end of his apprenticeship, Joe was commissioned to create a piece for the new fitness center at nearby King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The end result is carved from 21 tons of Indiana limestone and stands 12 feet high at the entrance to this day. The mammoth project took him a total of 4 months to carve, but he says with a smile, “I still had time to catch the Notre Dame Football games!” It was at Notre Dame that Joe also met the woman who would become his wife, her name was Karene. Soon after completing his internship, Joe left the brotherhood to begin his new journey as an artist. Karene who was a Sister of Saint Joeseph for 23 years, would also leave and the two would start their lives together. As Joe puts it, “I had discovered a different idea of life.” The couple moved to the Albany area where Joe began his life’s work finding a niche in carving religious pieces and structures for area and neighboring churches. Karene had received her Master of Fine Arts from Notre Dame and then went on to help establish the Art Education department at the College of Saint Rose. Some of Joe’s early works include re-creating a set of four gargoyles for St. Ann’s in Lenox, MA. Crafted from limestone, his depictions now replace the ones that had crumbled over time from the elements. He also saved another structure from a church in Rochester where lightning had struck the steeple, damaging the church pinnacles. His work can be found at Cornell University as well, where he recreated crumbling marble columns and returned them to their original luster, complete with intricate designs of creeping vines and acorns. A moment of validation for his work came when King’s College reached out to him to create another piece for the school. This time Joe was tasked with creating a new likeness of the school’s mascot, a lion. Carved for months in a cold warehouse along Albany’s Broadway Street, the lion took shape. Made from a 1,500 pound block of limestone and the use of air chisels, the lion mascot was not one that was easily tamed!
Around the Albany area you can find Joe’s works all over. Hanging at the First Presbyterian Church of Albany, you can see a 7 foot tall Celtic cross. The intricate design is one that Joe crafted from a beautiful mahogany in his basement in Albany. At the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Schenectady, Joe carved a likeness of Saint Helen from a beautiful red oak. He shared that he originally depicted her likeness with a matching wooden sword, however the sword has since gone missing, adding an air of mystery to the already tragic story of St. Helen. For the congregation at St. Vincent De Paul in Albany, Joe also created a bust that is on display. The volume of Joe’s works continues on, their story’s told through the bulging photo binders in Joe’s new home at Shaker Pointe. Joe moved into the community at Shaker Pointe just a few years ago, upon selling his Albany home. His studio now sits on his porch overlooking the Doane Brook courtyard, with works in progress eagerly awaiting their time with the chisel.
Carved into Time
If you ever visit Joe at Shaker Pointe today, you will be warmly greeted by his twinkling eyes and a smile. Around Shaker Pointe, Joe enjoys time spent in the Activities Studio and talking with other artistically inclined residents. He is always game for taking a class or exploring different mediums. Upon meeting Joe, his creativity and positive enthusiasm is soon apparent not just for art, but also in life. His apartment decorated with a lifetime of work from his own portfolio and friends, is like stepping into the world’s most comfortable gallery. As your eyes scan the walls and the various shelves you can’t help but want to sit and stay awhile just to take it all in. Right away you discover that every piece has a fascinating story, from how it was created to the journey the piece itself has taken over time. Some of Joe’s larger pieces he has documented in photo binders or mounted and displayed onto foam core boards. While his binders tell the story of his commissioned works, a trip to his apartment is like a journey through his own imagination and all the emotional in-betweens of his life. When pointing to a black bust of a man with a severe expression, Joe reveals his humorous side recalling how he would decorate the bust and place it in his home window for Halloween. Now a days, Joe takes his time with what he is working on. Carving shapes into mahogany blocks, waiting for the wood to revel its true form. When showed his current work in progress Joe shared, “I let the piece take shape as it unfolds, it’s a work in progress.” To date the mahogany block has two distinguishing faces, the beginnings of a gargoyle and the outline of two dogs. The dogs serve as an ode to ‘Buddy’ Joe’s past dog and inspiration. With his name set in stone, one things for sure-Joe’s legacy will be around for many years to come.