The renowned African American artist, curator, and scholar David Driskell died at the age of 88 due to complications of the coronavirus.
Driskell was born on June 7th, 1931 in Eatonton, Georgia. His undergraduate studies took place at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, where he was part of the flood of artists who came from the state of New York. Later, he received his BFA from Howard University and MFA from Catholic University.
The multimedia artist spent much of his time in his cabin home in Falmouth, Maine where he painted amongst the pine trees, which provided a deep source of artistic inspiration. Maine’s earthy landscape expanded Driskell’s imagination drastically, and in turn, his art took on a new direction. “I came to the Maine scene with a sense of color already embedded in my mind,” he said in 2008. ”But when I got here, things were so different. The light was so different. I was just so taken by the greenery, I started painting pine trees. And I haven’t really stopped.”
Aside from being a remarkable artist, Driskell was also a curator and scholar. In 1976, Driskell curated the first comprehensive survey of African American Art,“Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750–1950.” It featured over 200 works by 63 artists, and was held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Driskell taught at the University of Maryland from 1977 until his retirement in 1998. A center dedicated to Driskell was established in 2001, which is now a prominent hub for education about black artists. “During these challenging times, it is difficult to mourn one individual, but we are here to honor his legacy and continue his work of supporting and promoting African American artists,” the center said. “Once appropriate, we will ensure that our community has the chance to mourn and celebrate the life of a man who meant so much to so many of us.”
One can discover Driskell’s artworks in a multitude of American cities, such as at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts in Philadelphia, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art and the Library of Congress. Next year in 2021, Driskell’s previous works will be available to view at the High, Maine’s Portland Museum of Art, and the Phillips Collection in Washington DC.
New York’s DC Moore Gallery has represented Driskell since 1995. In a statement, the gallery announced: “All of us at DC Moore have been graced by David’s generous spirit, affirmation of life, wisdom, and force of his convictions. David’s art, words, and actions were intertwined, inseparable, and inspirational to us in our daily lives and interactions with others.”