Although born in Hastings, Don Driver lived and worked his entire life in New Plymouth. Driver’s work is often characterised by its deployment of symbols of rural Taranaki vernacular—forty-four gallon drums, burlap sacks, rusted farming implements—but is far from parochial in its outlook. His assemblages sit comfortably alongside the works of his international contemporaries such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Driver was largely self-taught: after high school, he worked as an apprentice dental technician and as a manager in a paint shop. From 1969 on, however, Driver worked for New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.
Driver’s early works were figurative sculptures, but he is best known for found-object assemblages such as Lawn Cuttings (1976), Fetish (1978) and Yellow Tentacle Pram (1980), in which a cluster of yellow drainpipes transform a Victorian child’s pram into a sinister mollusc. In these works, Driver takes materials sourced from the detritus of small-town New Zealand and infuses them with a distinctly international neo-Dadaist approach. In the years since his death, Driver’s reputation as one of New Zealand’s most unique and influential artistic voices has continued to grow.