By Vanessa Nesvig
Coordinator of Special Projects
I always look forward to our monthly discussions about a work in the Museum’s collection or exhibitions called “What Do You Think”? Recently we sat and took a long look at Pine and Moon by David Driskell that we purchased last year. We had a large group, with lots of comments and opinions.
First we noticed, how the background has been divided by different fields of color, sometimes in linear rectangles. This patchwork of color gives a modernist feeling to a work that could almost be mistakenly thought was done outside with the tree in front of him. In fact, Driskell looks at the pines he loves every day, but when painting, is doing the form from emotional memory. This is how he feels about the tree, not a specific tree.
His use of color gives us the sense that it is spring and there is growth and renewal, because of this, people might elude to his Byzantine use of color. The moon looks as if in an eclipse, or how it looks on a sunny day when the atmosphere makes it indistinct, people might say it looks like the disc of an African mask. This piece is all of those things and none of them.
When looking up this work, I found out that it is one of only five pine trees he has painted in oil. He has painted pine trees since he was in graduate school, and in fact they were the theme of his graduate thesis, but all have been in other mediums. This was the last oil in his possession, him not wanting to let go of it for many years. This to me is the most interesting thing to know about this piece. Thinking about why he loved this piece so much, what it meant to him, what he saw in it. This gets us one step closer to truly understanding this artist.