ROCKLAND — New works which have never been exhibited before, comprise the 24 major graphics in the exciting David C. Driskell print exhibit at the Center for Contemporary Art in Rockland. On Sunday May 7, at 3  p.m. Driskell will give a lecture in the gallery at the CMCA surrounded by his work. Don’t miss it. Driskell is a nationally known artist, print-maker and scholar, an outstanding speaker, and a gifted teacher. He speaks without notes and will talk about his personal experience with the creative process.
        Original woodblocks used by the artist are on display in a glass case in the center of the CMCA gallery as well as an interesting sketchbook from the artist’s travels with excepts of his personal observations make the exhibit unique.
Suzette McAvoy, director of  CMCA said in an interview,”I selected Driskell’s work because he is nationally known as a  printmaker as well as a painter. His prints are inventive and strong. He is a master of the medium. Students have visited and are inspired by his works.” McAvoy pointed out in the three examples of his work titled “The Cook, I, II, III” one can see interesting variations from the same wood block depending on the use of negative space color, and paper.
        The fascinating part of Driskell’s work (both representational and abstract) is that it includes many universal symbols. In “The Guardian,” a color woodcut, serigraph we can see angel wings towering over the whole design, a church, plants, and  a suggestion of animals. Colors of blue, green and red are found in the composition and the rhythm of spirituals can be seen in the flowing lines upward in the work.
        In the ”The Legend,” a woodcut, serigraph, we can see again  accents of blue, salmon, ochre, and brown colors floating throughout the work in an intricate pattern, like a tapestry of familiar symbols, including: plants, fish, an angel blowing a horn, a mask and a sun. Driskell’s work reflects his interest in spirituality. He has said, “ Religion and ritual and the mythic are concerns I have always nurtured.”
”Lady Day,” a color linocut, is an image of a strong and sad woman, unbroken by setbacks, and not discouraged by tragedy.  Driskell captures her spiritual essence in this work depicting a famous jazz singer.
        “Accent of Autumn,” a large serigraph, swings with a special lively rhythm as multicolored abstract forms float in space.
Driskell taught for 27 years at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has written over 40  monographs on African American artists and is the author of such major works as :Two Centuries of Black American Art 1750-1950” published by Knopf (1976)  “Hidden Heritage: African American Art (1800-1950)” published by the Art Association of America (1986), “African American Aesthetics: Post Modernist View” edited by Driskell and published by The Smithsonian Institution Press (1995) and ”Evolution: Five Decades of Printmaking”, where Driskell explains the printing process, published by Pomegranate (2007).
        Driskell came to Maine in 1955 as a student of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Eight years later he bought a home and created a studio in Falmouth where he  and his family have lived for 54 summers.
Born in 1931 into a family of sharecroppers, Driskell’s father was a Baptist minister. Rising from humble beginnings, Driskell is now an internationally leading authority on African American culture. After retiring in 2001, the University of Maryland created the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and African Diaspora. Driskell has been one of the primary people responsible for bringing African American art into the mainstream of American society through his own art work, writing, teaching, and curating exhibits by artists of color.
        On a wall of the gallery is a quote from Driskell that states, “I came to Maine not because I expected to have wide acceptance but to work independently as I wanted and to be left alone without having to answer all kinds of questions about my race. Maine has a welcoming attitude and it values its independence. Here I can just be a human.That is an important part of what Maine has meant to me.”
        Driskell has won so many awards that it is impossible to list them all in this review. However, three significant awards include: The National Humanities Medal given by President Bill Clinton in 2000, The Skowhegan Lifetime Legacy Award  given in 2016 at the Plaza in New York and Driskell will be receiving the prestigious Cummings Award for Artistic Excellence at the Colby College Art Museum on July  8, 2017.
        We in Maine are lucky to have such an important artist, scholar, writer and educator living among us and sharing his views.
Don’t miss Driskell’s exhibit at the CMC;  it is definitely worth a trip to Rockland to see.  The exhibit comes down June 4.

What: David Driskell: “Renewal and Form” exhibit
Where: Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland
When:  Through June 4. There is a  Driskell lecture Sunday, May 7 at 3 p.m.

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