Kari Duke, "Late Afternoon" 2012
Kari Duke, "Late Afternoon" 2012, oil on canvas, 48" x 72"
For the last 15 years, Kari Duke has focused on back alleys in the post-war neighborhoods around her Edmonton home, fascinated by the passage of time and the play of light. She portrays the leaning poles, sagging fences and run-down garages, as well as the rutted gravel lanes and puddles her collectors remember splashing through as children.
Duke grew up in Edmonton after moving there to start elementary school, but left as a young woman to live in Hope, B.C., when she married a doctor. Although she never went to art school, she continued to paint as a hobby while raising her family. In 2000, she moved to a little house in Edmonton’s McKernan neighbourhood, and began to paint in earnest.
“I absolutely fell in love with alleys,” she says, recalling the day she was out walking her dog and realized she had found a subject to sustain her interest. Duke hasn’t looked back, painting six hours most days with water soluble oils. “Surprisingly enough, people took to them and are still taking to them,” says Duke, who now has three galleries in Western Canada representing her work.
Her paintings offer a link to “a gentler, safer time” when parents felt it was safe to send their youngsters out to play all day, she says. But as the pace of urban change picked up in recent years, she began to see her work as documenting a vanishing material history as well. “I am a little sad about the infill, and the quality of the work that a lot of contractors do, without any regard to trying to keep any charm in the neighbourhood.”
Kari Duke is represented by Gibson Fine Art in Calgary, the Avens Gallery in Canmore, and the Front Gallery in Edmonton, where she is part of a two-person show with Tom Gale from Nov. 6 to Nov. 23. Her work sells for $600 to $12,000.