In the muffled frenzy of a college campus Starbucks, The Campus Citizen sat down with Julia Duke, a budding artist from Herron, bright and early at 7:30 a.m. In a corner lined with window views of the early autumn morning, our conversation with Duke quickly turned to dark childhood memories, religion, and modern feminism.
What has art meant for you throughout your life?
My mom originally went to school to be an artist, and although that didn’t work out for her, she still made art really important to us. I didn’t start taking art seriously until fourth grade, when unfortunately I started reading those horrible manga comics that consumed my life. [laughs]
When I got into high school, after that huge Japanese phase, I made a point to completely change my style because I didn’t want it to not be recognizable. I wanted it to be unique.
Do you have eras or art movements that influence your work?
There’s an Indianapolis artist that I’m really interested in, her name is Mab Graves. She does lot of the big eyed, dreamy scenery. And another artist that I look into is Mark Ryden. He also does big-eyed dreamy girls. They are in the same movement called pop surrealism, which I didn’t know I was doing it at first, but apparently that’s the kind of artwork I do, so now I look to them for inspiration and I gravitate towards that kind of art.
You work has a bit of a darker twist to it...
Most of my artwork comes from a dark place. I tend to draw these big-eyed girls because they’re supposed to represent innocence and childhood. I feel like the innocence that I should have had as a child was taken away very early, so I’m trying to convey these darker more adult messages through these almost child like characters as a way to talk about maybe my childhood and things that have happened to me or how I feel about certain aspects of humanity.
When you’re making a piece, does it bring up old emotions and memories?
I try to not do pieces like that because I feel like I get too emotionally invested into the piece. And sometimes I do pieces about things that have really hurt me emotionally and I can’t even complete them because it’s too difficult for me. So I try to be more general about the topic I’m discussing in the piece. But they all fall along the same lines more or less.
Do you have a piece that talks about an event in your life that really influenced who you are?
That’s the one I was talking about that I just can’t bring myself to finish, but it’s also one that I’m not interested in talking about because it’s not something that I share with people. But they relate to me in some aspect.
I called that one “Little Purity,” I guess it’s kind of a pun because she’s supposed to be this little devil girl in a church girl outfit, but it’s called “Little Purity,” so she has little purity, but she’s also a little girl. So it’s kind of [haha] funny.
Do you consider yourself religious? A few of your pieces have…
Things like that.
Most of my pieces now relate to the Adam and Eve story, mostly Eve because I like to focus on the female aspect of things. Femininity is really important in my work. I’m constantly using the Eve trope, as in women are the origin of sin. I kind of play on that as how women are treated in modern society - that maybe we still haven’t gotten past some of the original ideas about women that probably aren’t very indicative of our current time period, where they should be. They should represent the modern woman.
Would consider yourself a feminist?
People always give feminists a bad name. Feminism to me is equality, it’s not being better than one another, so sure.
What are you currently doing to pursue your passion and where do you see it going?
Right now I’m trying to get more noticed online, have a better online presence so I’m trying to regularly post images of my artwork and take things seriously. I have a professional website I’m paying a pretty penny for. I made business cards and I put them places and pass them out. I’ve shown in galleries.
I think I just want what every artist wants and that’s to make it and be happy doing the work you like to do.
What impact would you want to have on people looking at your work?
I want people to be curious, and maybe not quite understand it completely. Let them more or less figure it out for themselves. I don’t want to spell everything out, so people are allowed to come to their own conclusions about the characters I create.
To contact Julia Duke