Category Archives: David Driskell

What Is So Interesting About That? “Pine and Moon” by David Driskell


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.

Waiting for Driskell

By Vanessa Nesvig
Coordinator of Special Programs

At six yesterday morning my eyes popped open ready for this exciting week. Finally, the exhibition Evolution: Five Decades of Printmaking by David C. Driskell will open and all the celebration events will begin!

We are so fortunate to have David Driskell as a summer resident of Maine and that he has stayed a bit longer than usual to be at the opening events of this exhibition. Last night the Committee of 100 had a lecture and private walk through the exhibition with David. Hearing him talk about his work and his tremendous experiences as artist, professor of art, collector, and curator was a treat for all those there.

Today, I will be the lucky one who is able to spend the morning with David as we go through the exhibition and pick out objects to include in his audio tour that will be available for the first time as a cell phone tour. It will be fantastic to hear what he has to say about his own work and be able to share this with the public. His professional and disarming personality make me know that it will be a very enjoyable and fruitful morning.

Then on Wednesday night, David will be speaking about his work and career at the Eastland Park Hotel (6 p.m.) before the big opening celebration here at the Museum. As the Nelson Social Justice Fund speaker, his talk should be the highlight of the season as he shows us images and gives us greater understanding of his work and the influences that have formed his career. Join us!

Power and Iconography in African Art: Dr. Aimée Bessire’s Course Part 1

By Vanessa Nesvig
Coordinator of Special Projects

Last week at our staff lunch table, we all talked about the fantastic lecture Aimée Bessire gave the day before on African art. We all thought we had learned so much on a subject that we didn’t know very much about, and we shared our favorite parts.

To narrow the tremendous field of African art, Aimée used objects from the upcoming David Driskell exhibition as a place to start the conversation on Power and Iconography. We learned how interwoven these concepts are when talking about royal dress and adornment. Using visual icons that symbolized myths and stories from each culture, kings and royal women assert their standing by wearing these metaphors predominately in the form of gold in the Akan culture group and beadwork in the Yorba culture. Even the fabric woven has a name and a moralizing story with it, as in the “Liar’s Cloth” worn by lawyers. We loved the comparison of rulers wearing powerful and symbolic garb in the picture of Prince Charles of England walking with the Asante Henea from Ghana.

Diving deeper into the metaphors of particular objects, we saw divine (royal) power symbolized as feline ferocity in the form of leopards or two crocodiles with one stomach between them referring to the king and his closeness to his community. My favorite was an emblem of a chicken looking backward that had two meanings. One referred to a story that tells of a chicken whose chicks were killed as she scratched her back sending a moral reminder for the royal bearer to always watch over his people. The second was a metaphor for a ruler to always have to look back at the past, in order to move forward. This positive and negative symbology in one image reminded me of the Asian yin and yang concept in imagery.

But we all agreed, we loved the Linguist and his staff the most. The idea of having a royal person whose role is to “translate” what the citizens say to the king to be something more beautiful and lyrical for his ears was at first foreign to us, but then realized was akin to our Secretary of State! The staff was filled with many proverbial metaphors including the gold cast jaws of humans referring to the Linguist’s role as translator. This interconnection with the visual and the verbal proverb was the theme of the lecture. We look forward to today’s lecture on Religion and Expression.

Tickets are available at the door for the next two lectures on 10/14 and 10/21. Tickets are $15 and $12 for members for each lecture. Lectures begin at 4:30 p.m. Learn more…