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David Driskell

 (born 1931)
David Clyde Driskell is active/lives in Maryland, District Of Columbia.  David Driskell is known for abstract painting-African American themes, collage, non objective, graphics.

David Driskell

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for David Driskell
A painter of images based on nature and African-American art, David Driskell is also a scholar, curator, teacher, and collector of African-American art. He credits much of his interest and success to James A. Porter, an art history professor with whom he studied at Howard University.

Driskell was born in Eatonton, Georgia, into a sharecropper family who moved when he was age five to North Carolina in the Appalachian mountains. He lived there until 1951, when he began attendance at Howard University. His family had a tradition of artist creativity. His grandfather was a sculptor, carving ornaments from wood bark; his father, a Baptist minister, painted religious themes; and his mother was a quilter.

After college, he took a teaching job at Talladega College in Alabama, and in 1962, began teaching at Howard University until the 1970s when he took over the chairmanship of the art department until 1998 at the University of Maryland.

Driskell has come to be regarded as the world's foremost authority on black art in America. In recognition of his good work, he has received nine honorary degrees, curated more than 35 exhibitions of work by black artists including Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Elizabeth Catlett, and is the personal curator for actor Bill Cosby and his wife who have an extensive collection of Black-American art.

In 1972, he curated a major exhibition, "Two Centuries of Black American Art," for the Smithsonian Institution, and in 1996, he was the adviser to the White House curator on that collections first work by a black artist, "Sand Dunes at Sunset: Atlantic City," by Henry Tanner.

In addition to these activities, he has had many exhibitions of his own collection, which he houses in his Hyattsville, Maryland home, where he lives in a Victorian house with his wife, Thelma G DeLoatch.

In 2005, the David C. Driskell Prize was established at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, "the first national award to honor and celebrate contributions to the field of African-American art and art history. The award of $25,000.00 is intended for an individual in the beginning or middle of their career whose work is considered an important contribution to African-American art or history.

Sources include:
"ARTnews", May 2000
"Art Business News", February 2005

Biography from The Johnson Collection
An artist, scholar, curator, and collector, David Driskell is a world authority on African-American art. In addition to receiving thirteen honorary degrees and numerous awards, including three Rockefeller fellowships and the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton, Driskell has curated more than thirty-five exhibitions on black artists. His own paintings and collages have been included in countless national and international shows.

Born into a sharecropping family in Eatonton, Georgia, Driskell inherited his creative inclination from his father, a minister and watercolorist, and his mother, a homemaker and quilter. Driskell spent most of his youth in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina, where his family moved in 1936. Although his school had no art program and only minimal art materials for its students, Driskell recalls using whatever paper he could find to draw pictures of cars and houses. Following the example of adults in his community, he also created small sculptures using local clay and natural dyes. Though he had received a scholarship to attend a university in-state, Driskell was determined to enroll at the country's most prestigious historically black college of the day, Howard University in Washington, D.C. He received his undergraduate degree from Howard in 1955 and later earned his MFA from Catholic University of America.

As a college student, Driskell found himself drawn to social commentary art. His mentor, James A. Porter, encouraged the aspiring artist to study art history in addition to painting. At the Barnett-Aden Gallery—the city's first commercial gallery to display the work of artists of color—he saw the work of Romare Bearden and met Langston Hughes as well as other African American intellectuals at salon events. These encounters inspired Driskell to begin collecting art, much as Barnett-Aden owners James V. Herring and Alonzo Aden had done. His considerable collection, initiated with a gift from Herring of a modern Wassily Kandinsky painting and a baroque sketch by Rembrandt Van Rijn, expanded substantially after Driskell was recruited in 1966 by Nashville's Fisk University to chair their art program, a department founded by Aaron Douglas. At Fisk, Driskell introduced a visiting African-American artists program, enlarged the university's art collection, and successfully attracted racially integrated audiences to the institution's various exhibitions.

Even as Driskell continued to develop his curatorial expertise—eventually becoming the curator for Bill Cosby's extensive African American art collection—he never wavered in his own creative pursuits. Inspired by African masks and sculpture following a 1969 trip to Africa, Driskell began infusing his paintings and collages with an African aesthetic. His personal memories and imagination informed his compositions, as did the work of contemporaries. It was Romare Bearden who encouraged Driskell's technique of tearing, rather than cutting, as he began making collages from fabric, paper, and magazine images. New York galleries started showing the artist's work as early at 1970; in 1980, he was honored with his first major retrospective solo exhibition.

Writing later of his own art, Driskell said, "As an artist of African ancestry living in a world fraught with racism, sexism, and all the prejudices I have learned to live with, I often find refuge and indeed solace in the creative process . . . [and in] responding to the spiritual urge within to fulfill my earthly task of making and creating my own beautiful world."

As Driskell began to experience success in major art markets, he continued his efforts to promote African American art nationwide. In 1976, Driskell curated the landmark exhibition "Two Centuries of Black American Art". Accompanied by an extensive catalog, the seminal survey of more than two hundred objects opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and traveled across the country. The response to this exhibition opened the doors for other national appointments and assignments that placed him in the center of African American art history studies. From 1977-1998, Driskell served as a distinguished professor at the University of Maryland, where he taught, painted, curated, and helped build the institution's art collection.

David Driskell's legacy is un-rivalled in its diversity and import. His work can be found in the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and High Museum, among other prestigious institutions. In addition to exhibiting his own work as well as African-American art from his personal collection at museums and universities across the country, Driskell donated a substantial portion of his extensive collection to create the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland in 2001. The center preserves African American art and culture, while providing an intellectual home for artists and scholars working to expand African Diasporic studies. In an effort to encourage scholarship, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta established the David C. Driskell Prize in 2004. Awarded annually, the prize honors individuals who, like Driskell himself, have made original and significant contributions to the study of African American art or history.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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About  David Driskell

Born:  1931 - Eatonton, Georgia
Known for:  abstract painting-African American themes, collage, non objective, graphics

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David Driskell

Black American Artists