Artist David Driskell died on April 1 at the age of 88.
Driskell was an important scholar and curator as well as an influential artist, and he had close ties to Atlanta’s High Museum.
“City Lights'” host Lois Reitzes spoke about Driskell’s legacy with Columbia University Professor Robert O’Meally and Rand Suffolk, executive director of the High Museum of Art.
Driskell attended Howard University as an undergraduate where his mentor was the art historian James A. Porter.
Porter once told Driskell, “You have a good mind so you can’t just be a painter; you’re going to have to help define the field and keep the tradition going.” O’Meally believes this is what ignited Driskell to explore other avenues.
“Being David Driskell, I think he took the charge and defined it [being a painter] in the broadest possible terms. You have a good mind; you’ve got things to do. You can’t just do one thing, and so there he is — he became a curator, a historian, a teacher, a force within the field, as well as a painter,” said O’ Meally.
In 2005, the High Museum established the David C. Driskell Prize, an award that honors and celebrates the contributions of African American artists.
“It’s not overstating it to suggest, in many respects, David Driskell was a defining advent for the creation of African American art history,” said Suffolk.
Driskell’s works on the African Diaspora spanned nearly seven decades. In that time, he was awarded a Presidential Medal of Honor in Humanities and the Skowhegan Lifetime Legacy Award.