I had the wonderful experience of meeting the artist Isidoro Duque and his family in 2004 at their home, studio, and shop in Venezuela on my third trip to this beautiful country. I had seen his artwork a few years earlier on a previous trip and had purchased two of his paintings, but timing was not in our favor and I was sadly unable to meet Mr. Duque. I brought the two paintings back to my home and gallery, and enjoyed them immensely. The artwork was so sensual and moving that I wanted to know the person behind the work, to get his story and understand his background. I also desired more of his paintings for my gallery and so became determined to return to Venezuela to find and befriend this talented artist.
I had only the vaguest sense of where Mr. Duque lived, and upon my return to Venezuela, it seemed almost impossible to find his home/studio/shop again. I could recall it being in the town of La Grita near a clothing shop, but remembered few other details. Fortunately my guide, Ms. Adrienne Pannier, was an amazing woman with endless energy and pep. She was just as determined as I to find this artist, no matter how long and far we had to look. Upon out arrival in La Grita, we began canvassing the town, asking all who would listen where we could find the studio after which we sought. Our persistence and enthusiasm paid off greatly, and Adrienne and I were able to find Mr. Duque’s shop within an hour of our arrival! We entered the studio and walked, mesmerized, though a long hallway of large oil paintings depicting events in Venezuela’s history, many of which depicted national hero Simon Bolivar. Inside his home there were many more paintings of historical events, religious scenes, and the comedy and tragedy of everyday life. I was absolutely floored by the numerous and incredible paintings Isidoro Duque had created. The soft greens and pastel colors of the paintings appealed to me with their Chagall-esque charm and peacefulness. I could see Mr. Duque’s heart pouring out of each piece of art; it was obvious that the artist was a gentle man who loved life, loved his country, loved his family, and loved his faith.
This time, I was able to enjoy nearly an hour with this gentle soul, at the time an octogenarian with all the energy of a teenager. He told me, through Adrienne’s translation, even though he had another means of making a living, he loved to paint as it was his creative outlet and a spiritual and soul-nurturing activity. He expressed to me his dream of one day having his paintings viewed and appreciated by his countrymen and perhaps even in the United States and elsewhere around the globe.
I could not resist the euphoria of his artwork, and, a true addict, I bought SEVENTEEN paintings from Isidoro! I was hardly able to leave any behind, having fallen in love with each and every one. The paintings I purchased all came back to the United States, were photographed, and submitted to the International Folk Art Market committee in Santa Fe for admission in their Summer 2007 Marketplace. Isidoro was invited to participate in this prestigious show, but sadly he passed away in June of 2007, just weeks prior to the show. Though Isidoro is no longer with us, his spirit live on through his work which will always be a testament to him as a wonderful artist and kind man.
Text by Laurie Ahner