David C. Driskell ~ 1931-April 1, 2020

David Driskell at Spannocchia Castle, June 2009. Photo: Nil Santana
David Driskell at Spannocchia Castle, June 2009. Photo: Nil Santana

From remarks given at the David C. Driskell Center, February 28, 2019

by George Smith, Founder and President, Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts

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The poet’s utterance constitutes a thank you, a sacrifice.

This sacred gesture marks human being’s essential gratitude and humility, a vulnerability and openness that stands back in wonderment, away from and prior to truth as predicated on the calculation and measure of beings.

According to Homer, the gods come to us when we express wonderment and gratitude.

For the ancient Greeks, Homer’s Greeks—the Greeks who came before Plato’s calculation and measure—the good means excellence. The excellent life for Homer’s Greek has everything to do with gratitude and wonder.

Homer’s Greeks are neither self-certain nor self-satisfied. Their gods have a say in life. The prize for excellence is not what is won but what is given. The gift, excellence in Homer’s time, comes of gratitude and wonder, not from mastery and supremacy.

Nor would Homer ever think we could or should dominate and control nature. The Homeric Greek would see such an idea as colossal arrogance.

For Homer’s Greeks, humility is held sacred and is related to the word prayer. Humility is a grace that brings the poet into attunement with the gods.

For Homer, in other words, grace appears in the charisma of the poet, whose humility and radiant grace is attuned to what is sacred and holy.

And so, charisma is the opposite of self-certainty, the opposite of self-reliance.

Charisma is a vulnerability, an openness that stands back, humbly, shining in wonderment.

In the presence of beauty Homer’s Greeks stood back in awe, in humble reverence. Beauty inspired them and moved them to awe and reverence. This they learned from the charismatic poet, the teacher of what is sacred.

The poet’s utterance constitutes a sacred thank you, a sacrifice.

The poet I speak of is David Driskell.

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David Driskell was a founding member of the IDSVA Visiting Faculty. His inaugural IDSVA lecture was delivered at Spannocchia Castle, Tuscany, in June 2009. His final IDSVA lecture was delivered at Spannocchia Castle in June 2019. The David C. Driskell Fellowship was established in 2010. Dr. Driskell’s message of peace and understanding has inspired countless individuals around the world, and the David C. Driskell Fellowship is bestowed upon IDSVA students of color who show similar promise as leaders of the future. To date, IDSVA has awarded eight Driskell Fellowships. In January 2013, David was awarded an IDSVA Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his life service as an artist-philosopher and a world-leading spiritual philanthropist.