When Bill Duquette won first place at the Santa Clarita Artists Association Art Classic Gala for his sculpture, “The Secret Spot,” there was a little bit of irony in it. Depicting a pair of men sitting with their fishing poles dropped beneath them, the artwork represents a quiet, relaxing time by an artist whose life has been anything but settled. In fact, the 71-year-old has lived in many different states of the country, completed three tours in Vietnam, has retired at least twice, and is now married to a fellow artist who is also busy creating and showing her work.
A native of Saginaw, Michigan, Duquette was a swim champion as a youth, ranked nationally in the 200-yard freestyle. He earned several university scholarships and he was aiming for the 1968 Olympic trials when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps instead.
His service in Vietnam left him with disabilities due to Agent Orange and other factors, Duquette said. Like so many bands of brothers, Duquette still communicates with members of his platoon, who have been together 45 years. They meet once a year somewhere in the United States. Last year the group lost 3-4 men and he estimates his group has about 35-40 individuals still living.
He’s a part of Together We Served, a group that reconnects veterans to one another. Duquette has also employed the services of the Veterans Administration for about 40 years and said he has no complaints. It’s been a helpful resource for him, he said.
When he returned to the States after Vietnam, he worked full-time and attended school through the GI Bill, which took nearly two decades and resulted in multiple degrees, including engineering and graphic design. From 1981-1995 he was a building contractor whose last job was the Edwards Canyon Country Theatre project.
“I finished in ‘96 and retired,” Duquette said. “Then I moved to St. Augustine, Florida and fished.”
Because he had two grandchildren in California, he returned in 2010, which is when he purchased his current home in Greenbrier Mobile Estates.
When Duquette moves to a new city, his modus operandi typically involves finding an art community. While living in Florida he joined the St. Augustine Art Association and became a member of the Oil Painters of America, as well as the Graphic Artists Guild.
“So, I just wanted to find an association here,” he said. “I wanted to find some art people.”
He succeeded in finding other artists in Santa Clarita. But one member, in particular, stood out.
Duquette began collecting the work of some of his colleagues, and one of his favorites was photographer Carrie Dawn.
“I had never met her, didn’t know who she was,” he said. “The Artists Association had a Christmas party one year and she walked up to me and said, ‘I’m Carrie Dawn.’”
Bill and Carrie Duquette were married four years ago. Their home is currently on the market, as the couple – and their pair of parrots – are planning to move up to Pine Mountain Club.
“We just had a show together (at Pine Mountain) two months ago for a whole month,” Duquette said, “at Artworks Community Gallery.”
The couple’s work can also be viewed at the Hyatt Regency Valencia, where the hotel recently completed a remodeling project.
Always inspired, Duquette just returned from an Alaskan cruise, and his paintings are a reflection of what he saw and experienced there. The resulting artwork includes an oil painting with approximately 40 layers of paint that he calls “Golden Falls.”
“The final layer is a clear coat that looks deep,” he said. “It’s almost 3-D.”
Carrie’s work involves photography and Bill paints and creates multimedia sculptures, mostly wire and wood lately. Together the Duquettes are working on an illustrated children’s book of Carrie’s poetry, which should be released in the summer of next year.