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Hello, my name is Julie Aronson, and I am the Curator of American Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings. I am also the curator overseeing the Cincinnati presentation of this exhibition. Today, I will be reading the introduction to the exhibition David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History.

Born in Eatonton, Georgia, David Driskell (1931–2020) was a revered American artist, educator, and scholar whose work inspired generations of artists and audiences alike. Icons of Nature and History reveals the artist’s aesthetic inheritances from home, family, the South, and his formative education—at Howard University, Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, and the Catholic University of America—as well as the influence of his sojourns to Europe, Africa, and South America. His artistic evolution is marked by distinctive eras, experiences, and experiments with media. What remains steadfast in his work is a commitment to a symbolic form that elevates the mind and the spirit above that which exists in the physical world: these are Driskell’s icons.

Spanning seven decades, this survey of Driskell’s art moves the center of art history to Driskell’s arenas: Washington, DC; Talladega, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; Hyattsville, Maryland; and Falmouth, Maine. In so doing, it invites us to see American art more comprehensively and to appreciate the contributions of historically Black colleges and universities. Artists have the vision to see beyond the ordinary, Driskell tells us. Among the many gifts he bequeaths to us is the delight of seeing the world through his eyes; it is a journey of immeasurable beauty and grace.