Speaker: Julie L. McGee
Artist David C. Driskell (1931-2020) was a scholar, curator, and art historian of world renown whose endeavors shaped the way we research, study, and teach American art history. This presentation introduces and situates Driskell’s studio, home, and property in Maine in the context of the artist’s life and work. For Driskell this surfaces in his ability to creatively embrace and bring coherence to a compendium of influences that are American and African, Southern and Northern, natural and spiritual, improvisational and traditional inheritances. Born in Eatonton, Georgia in 1931, but raised mostly in North Carolina, Driskell recalled a family life of self-sufficiency, qualitatively handsome and harmonious with nature. Driskell built the Maine studio himself, with the helping hands of his daughters and spouse, and using salvaged and repurposed windows and lumber. Returning to Maine every summer, from teaching stints in Alabama (Talladega), Washington, DC (Howard University), Nashville (Fisk University) and Maryland (University of Maryland, College Park), the studio became his Northern Sanctuary, nestled in the soaring pines of the Maine environs. In this studio he developed the aesthetic vision for which he is best known—a singular collage-based painting that brings figures and nature into a vivid, expressive unity.
Julie L. McGee is Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Art History, Director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center at the University of Delaware, and serves as Interim Director, Special Collections & Museums, Library, Museums & Press. An art historian and curator, she has curated exhibitions for the David C. Driskell Center, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, and Guga S’Thebe Community Arts Centre in Langa (Cape Town), South Africa. With Vuyile C. Voyiya, McGee co-produced the 2003 documentary film The Luggage is Still Labeled: Blackness in South African Art. In addition to the exhibition David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History (2021), her scholarship on Driskell includes the monograph David C. Driskell: Artist and Scholar (2006), curatorial essays, artist interviews, and analyses of Driskell’s writings.