color woodcut on paper
15 5/8 in. x 11 1/2 in. (39.69 cm. x 29.21 cm.)
Museum Purchase, Art Objects Fund, 1974.62. © Estate of David C. Driskell. Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York
David Driskell commonly depicted women of African descent in his work, reflecting the influence the women in his family had on his life. In Benin Woman III, Driskell incorporates mask iconography, inspired by Benin masks that depicted the Queen Mother. However, the print was not intended to replicate the mask type in any straightforward way. As if to imbue the print with women’s presence, he bifurcates the face with a more human side (left) and a mask side (right). Driskell incorporates hair, jewelry, and a flower to emphasize the hybrid figure’s femininity, details often incorporated into his works that feature women. Driskell’s work often reckoned with his own relationship to the continent and explored his African roots. By centering women in this composition, and recalling masks of the Queen Mother subject, Driskell considers women of African descent and their role as progenitors of humanity.