Artist Idoline Duke is an avid outdoorswoman and naturalist, but her work, which spans watercolors, India inks, mixed media and sculpture, possesses an air of the fantastical. “I try not to be too literal,” she says. “I want to capture a certain spirit, not just the details.”
Growing up, Duke would often visit her grandparents’ summer home on Georgica Beach. From childhood, she appreciated the region’s scenery—so much so that she moved to Springs with her family shortly before the pandemic. Her property near Accabonac Harbor abuts 200 acres of conserved farmland, meadows and marshlands, and includes an old stand of sassafras trees, making it as much a haven for Duke as for deer, turkeys, ospreys, eagles and myriad marsh-loving birds. “We moved here to be by the water because it’s a source of life,” the artist explains, noting that the immediacy of walks, swimming and surfing provides an idyllic break from working in the studio. Said studio is a converted potato barn that was once inhabited by sculptor William Tarr and which Duke has since enlivened with artworks and beach-foraged treasures, from seashells and driftwood to feathers and stones.
The painter has devoted her oeuvre to nature because, in her words, “if we don’t celebrate our natural world, we won’t respect it.” Currently, Duke is focused on a series of paintings depicting the tree of life, which she is creating in mural-like scale. “It’s a ubiquitous theme throughout different religions, cultures and mythologies, and I’m enjoying putting my own spin on it,” she shares, pointing to motifs such as footprints, owls or the phases of the moon that a keen eye can spot amid leaves and branches.
Yet flora and fauna are by no means Duke’s sole inspirations. She credits the Northern European art of paper cutting, or Scherenschnitte, as a leading influence, as well as Otomi embroidery from Mexico. “Those decorative motifs are always in my subconscious,” the artist notes.
Duke, who is represented by ARC Fine Art of Fairfield, Connecticut, and East Hampton, ultimately hopes to honor interconnectivity and interdependence through her work. “We’re all after the same thing,” she muses. “Harmony within ourselves, harmony with each other and a sense that we’re part of something greater.