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Dr. Driskell: A quick reflection of soup & salad

Dr. David Driskell

Most of our conversations, at least the most memorable ones, happened over lunch. Soup and salad; that's what we did. We chatted about which fresh vegetables from the garden made it into that day's lunch and we chatted about techniques that were perfected for that day’s soup. “Remember Jonathan, always save a little of your stock for the next batch. That’s how the French do it. It keeps your flavors alive — balanced.”

The Dr. Driskell I knew was a humble man — an artist of media and an artist of life. And while we hung out in his Hyattsville studio from time to time, woodblock printing and encaustics weren’t really my thing, so our connections were much more about finding ways to live and breath as an artist. From time to time, he’d give me a lead on some art finds — a rare Romare Bearden for example — but really, most chats of ours were just about life. Still, he knew I was an obsessive maker in the digital media/sculpture realm, so from time to time he’d make sure to note that I needed to make it up to his Falmouth studio sometime. You know, connect as artists. But in those moments, all I could think was “, I wouldn’t be able to afford graduate school without your foundation. How am I gonna make it all the way up to Maine?!?” … Looking back though, I’m humbled that these things were even a consideration. I guess walking amongst the greats is just the way it is sometimes.

For the couple of years of graduate study that I was invited into his home to catalog slides and help Daphne and Rodney prepare to open what is now the David C. Driskell Center for the study of visual arts... at University of Maryland, I was blessed to gain a true appreciation and understanding of what success as a black artist could be. Well beyond notoriety, Dr. Driskell was surrounded by family and people like myself who genuinely cared about him, as a creative human, and never asked for much more than an inspirational story or even a quick recipe. Soup and salad was our jam, but man oh man, I can honestly say my life’s trajectory would have been much different had I not gained such an understanding of what life as a successful Black creative could be. 

So today — two years after Dr. Driskell’s untimely passing — I’d like to send some overdue thanks. To Daphne: Please know you changed my world. Thanks for being there and understanding that all nighters in the studio happened (maybe more frequently than they should have) and that sometimes I was just going pass out at work, mid sentence. To Rodney: Thanks for the overall joy and helping me to understand what life really could be. Your stories and presence are still very much a part of my driving force. And to Thelma & David: Please know your warmth was appreciated far more than I was ever able to articulate. I’m grateful that every memory I have with the two of you is filled with smiles and laughter. Aside from the spoken lessons, you gave me an amazing sense of what family could be. And to you all, if this post somehow finds you, please note that my center ended up happening in the humble town of Cincinnati and I’d love to tour you around our campus if the chance ever arises. 

Peace and blessings,


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