A Conversation with Dr. David C. Driskell


  • newswise-fullscreen A Conversation with Dr. David C. Driskell

    Dr. David C. Driskell Professor of Art (Emeritus) University of Maryland

Dr. David C. DriskellProfessor of Art (Emeritus)University of Maryland

Newswise — Q -You must be so very proud of the new Driskell Center - what does it mean to you?

I am very proud of the new Driskell Center for many reasons: Primary among these is our reaffirmation to the world that the arts are an essential aspect of our obtaining a well rounded education. Moreover, the establishment of a center in my name at a major research institution, such as the University of Maryland at College Park , shows an avowed commitment on the part of the Mote administration to being inclusive of cultural diversity in all of the spheres of learning; particularly in our recognition of the importance of African American visual culture.

Q - The new Evolution exhibit that debuts October 17 looks at five decades of your printmaking. Just how much of you is in those prints? What do you hope people will see in them, will learn from them?

Over the past 55 years that I have been an artist, I did not attempt to draw attention to the fact that I constantly made original prints in the mediums of lithography, woodcut, and linocut and more recently in silkscreen all the while I painted. However, I often created a graphic representation of some of the subjects that I engaged in as a painter as early as the 1950s. It later dawned on me that I was actively engaged as a maker of prints even when I did not have the usual printing facilities, such as a press or other equipment. I often used the Asian method of printing each work by hand with the aid of a spoon, rubbing it over the surface of the paper on an inked plate.

This was hard work and often made it impossible to produce an even edition of prints. I was totally physically absorbed in the making of the early prints and I was equally challenged to create subjects that I felt were relevant to the time the works were made. I am now able to work with a number of master printer artists, such as Lou Stovall and Curlee Holton, and my production has increased measurable over the past 20 years. I hope the audience sees the depth of my artistry in the print mediums in the exhibition in the same manner that it is shown in my paintings; the medium with which my work is most often seen.

Q - You say that there's a compelling urge for you to do art as you feel it - a "haunting aspect" of image making that moves you in and out of reality. Do your prints help people "see" what you want them to see?

I am hopeful that the viewer sees the real me in each work; that extra vision of creation that would not be possible without the intervention of my hand or without the delivering of my personal visual voice.

Q - You have always cared deeply about young people - the Arts and Education program the Center has in Prince George's and Montgomery Counties is a good example. What do you hope students can learn by studying African American culture as well as the African Diaspora - and learning to create their own works of art?

Although I spent four decades teaching art on the college and university levels, I always interacted with students in elementary, middle and high schools wherever I taught. I found time to organize workshops and art events from time to time even when I chaired the Department of Art at Maryland . If we wish to pass on the legacy of the important role that art plays in society, we must begin by exposing students to art at the very beginning of their educational experience and we must emphasize the relevant role that art plays in our daily living and in civilization as a whole.

By their studying African American culture as well as that of the African Diaspora, they will have a more comprehensive view of the world at large, and more particularly, the salient contributions that people of African ancestry have made to world culture. This information is still not readily available in various textbooks that are widely used in classrooms around the nation. The Center can aid in helping to correct the omissions of history that we have witnessed in matters pertaining to the underrepresented populations in our nation.

Q - The Driskell Center is now at a point where it will be able to accomplish great things. What do you hope to see for its future - and how important is it to be here at the University of Maryland?

The Driskell Center is a very unique place in that it can help by filling in the wide gaps that are often missing when it comes to African Diasporic culture. The University of Maryland can serve as a model for other institutions around the nation by leading in the field and by presenting art exhibitions, symposia and cultural forums that will broaden those services that help bring about a more enlightened form of visual literacy in American art. I am convinced that we will be successful in this endeavor.

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