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Culver Artist Charles Duff, who taught art at Culver Academies for twenty years, will have a show and reception at the library on Saturday, June 25 at 1:00 PM, with his work on display at the library through July 1.
More about Charles Duff at his website, www.charlesduff.com
"I was meant to be an artist,” says Culver resident and retired Culver Academies instructor Charles Duff, thinking back on his decision to devote his life full-time to the pursuit of his art. "Nothing else worked as well as art. Art was the only time I had contentment.”
Duff will be on hand at an opening and reception for his work at the Culver-Union Township Public Library on Saturday, June 25 at 1:00 P.M. His art will continue to be on display at the library, in one of the downstairs meeting rooms, through July 1. The reception and show is part of a new art series at the library, the Summer Artist Series, which showcases a local artist each month during the summer months. July’s artist is Patrick Bannon and August’s is Robert Nowalk.
Charles Duff’s name – and that of his wife, Anne – is familiar to many longtime Culver residents, perhaps most prominently for their years teaching at Culver Academies, where Charles began in 1976, retiring in 1996. Since then, he has devoted a great deal of his time to his artwork, using watercolor, tempera, wax, caustic, and pastel in the small, bright attic studio he and Anne have set up in their Culver home.
But his life of art has been an ongoing process, says Charles, who has been at it, in one form or another, since childhood and has continued fairly consistently. He was born and reared in the West Virginia mountains and his childhood there, he says, close to nature and with a kinship to nature, has been a great inspiration to his work. "What I paint is nature. It’s not realism, but what lies behind nature that I’m trying to capture: the spirit.”
He attended the University of Miami, from which he graduated before joining the Air Force and serving as a fighter pilot. It was his experiences in the Air Force that cemented the notion, at the time, that "art’s for me.” He notes that, then as now, the artists’ profession was not one of money and security, so many around him thought he was crazy for making the decision to commit himself to a life in art, "but,” he notes, "there’s more to it than money.”
Undaunted, he journeyed to his ancestral home of Scotland and attended the Edinburgh College of Art, which is also where he met, as he smilingly described her, "Scot’s lassie” Anne. They were engaged before they left Edinburgh, and married in the United States, where he attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and earned his Master’s in Fine Arts.
He spent several years as an illustrator for the Navy but decided he wanted to teach, and after a few years of teaching in Virginia, took a position in 1976 at Culver Academy, where he was a beloved and respected part of the faculty, both by students and fellow teachers. "I enjoyed the students,” says Charles, reflecting today on his years at the Academies. "They made it all worthwhile.”
Speaking of her colleague at his 1996 retirement, fellow Academies instructor Nancy McKinnis said of Charles, "his calm, steady, supportive demeanor helps to create an ideal environment for students to create and learn. He has an uncanny sense for knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it when he talks to students about their work.”
After his retirement, Charles taught at Ancilla College here and there, but mostly dedicated himself to his work, something he had looked forward to doing for some time. He may be seen these days around town, simply enjoying being out, or perhaps taking photos or making sketches at a local site for a future painting. Many of his scenes are local, ranging from recognizable landmarks – like the lake or a well-known work showing the east side of Main Street some years back – but many are deceptively simple landscapes or objects from nature, a subtle study in light and color aimed at expressing an idea, he says, that will begin forming in him and need to be put down on canvas.
"When I’m painting,” says Charles, "I’m not conscious. There’s something else doing it.”
He quotes Leonardo: "Painting is making poetry visible,” which is perhaps as apt a summation of what Charles Duff seeks to do with his artwork, as any.
Over the years, Charles has had shows in the U.S. and Europe, and his work is in private collections all over the world as well. His show at the library this June will be his first locally, and he hopes to have his art, first and foremost, seen, noting that many people have been asking him about a show of his work for some time.
Above: Charles Duff at work in his studio in Culver.
Above: Charles Duff in front of one of his paintings.
Above: Poster from a show in Scotland.
Above: Photos from the Duff opening on June 25, 2005 at the Culver Public Library