ALMOST 25 YEARS AGO, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) presented an exhibition of emerging artists dedicated to Beverly McIver, his very first solo exhibition. Next year, the Arizona Museum plans to revisit the artist’s work with a career-spanning survey tracing the arc of his current practice. “Beverly McIver: Full Circle” is curated by Kim Boganey, Director of Scottsdale Public Art. Showcasing 50 works of art, the exhibition opens on February 12, 2022.
McIver’s richly colored figurative portraits explore identity, confronting issues of race and gender. Infused with raw emotion and passion, the images are often self-portraits or focus on individual members of his family.
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Can You Hear My Silent Scream”, 1994 (oil on canvas, 38 1/2 x 40 1/2 inches). | © Beverly McIver, courtesy of Betty Cunningham Gallery
The exhibition presents several series, including Dear God, Loving in Black and White, Five Days of Feeling and Depression, the last two presented in their entirety. Portraits of performance artist Eiko Otake, artist Philip Pearlstein (and his wife Dorothy) and choreographer Bill T. Jones will also be on display. McIver’s painting of Jones was acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in 2017.
McIver has a fascinating biography and almost everything directly informs his work, from his childhood in social housing to his first meeting with his father at the age of 16 and breast reduction surgery. Using photographs for reference, his work is very personal, at the same time as it speaks of universal themes.
Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, McIver was the youngest of three daughters. She received a BA in Painting and Drawing from North Carolina Central University, an HBCU in Durham (1987), and an MA in Painting and Drawing from Pennsylvania State University at University Park (1992).
In 2000 and 2007, McIver was artist in residence at Yaddo, the artists’ retreat in Saratoga Springs, NY. She is now a member of Yaddo’s board of directors. In 2013, his self-portrait titled “Depression” was among the specially recognized finalists in the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever portrait competition. She was also the winner of the Prix de Rome (2017-18).
One of McIver’s usual subjects is his older sister Renee, whom the artist describes in her biography as “mentally handicapped, with the mindset of a second grader.” McIver became Renee’s legal guardian when their mother passed away in 2004. The bittersweet disruption came just as the artist’s career was gathering momentum. The sisters share their story in the documentary “Raising Renee”. Aired on HBO in 2012, the film is currently airing on Amazon Prime.
McIver has directed a series about her mother being a domestic worker raising white children, her sister Renee, and depression, which the artist experienced when she took on the responsibility of caring for her brother. His father, a retired taxi driver, was also the subject of his work. Last fall, she made a rare shift towards overtly politically charged paintings in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 election.
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Enough”, 2020 (oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches). | © Beverly McIver, courtesy of the artist
OVER THE YEARS, McIver has discussed his life and practice in interviews, always speaking candidly about his experiences, his inspirations and the significance of his works.
On his creative process:
“I paint with oil paints. I paint with a primary palette which means I use red, blue and yellow and mix all of my colors. I also use white. I mix Liquin with my paint to give it the consistency of butter at room temperature.… Usually, I seek to explore a theme such as transition, depression or dance. I take photos first and use the photos to create paintings. It is important for me to calm my conscious mind and trust my intuition to guide me through the painting.… If I’m lucky I can hear a voice telling me what to paint, how to set the canvas up. and what colors to use. This process usually results in a good paint job.
– From the National Portrait Gallery blog
On his early desire to be a professional clown:
“When (Cindy Sherman) dressed like a clown, it appealed to me especially because I wanted to be a clown when I was younger, like in Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. But I just didn’t get accepted into clown college… I was in a clown club in my high school, which was a predominantly white high school, and to participate you had to be white. So my sister and I had to put on a white face even though of course we were black. I did parades and birthday parties and then when I went to undergrad I continued doing clown stuff on my own. It was liberating to dress in white and escape being black and poor and living on welfare. – From the Huffington Post
Being in the studio during the pandemic:
“I really had to turn this time into a positive. I was like, I’m just going to paint whatever comes up… And then… my hunch was like, “You should order some rope…. And it should be a thick black rope…. I was thinking about my hair, because I was like ‘Wow, what if my dreadlocks were long enough that I could just wrap them up? [around my head]? ‘ But I didn’t make the connection between that and the rope. And then I showed the pictures to my friend Kim. And she said to me, ‘Oh, my God, that looks like a noose!’ And then I saw him…. Later (Kim’s black, by the way) I shared the paintings with a white friend. And they said, ‘Oh, your hair, it’s your dreadlocks, blowing in the wind.’ So I kept asking friends, and it became that kind of a divide between how black people interpreted the chord and how white people interpreted the chord, which was just amazing. – Art and object
“Usually I try to explore a theme such as transition, depression or dance. I take photos first and use the photos to create paintings. It is important for me to calm my conscious mind and trust my intuition to guide me through the painting. -Beverly McIver
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Dancing for My Man”, 2003 (oil on canvas, 48 x 96 inches). | © Beverly McIver ,, Collection of Noel Kirnon and Michael Paley, New York
MCIVER’S CONNECTIONS TO ARIZONA are academic and artistic. For 25 years, she maintained her practice alongside a teaching career. Today, she teaches art practice, art history and visual studies at Duke University. Previously, McIver was a faculty member at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, where she was a professor from 1996 to 2007.
At SMoCA, “In Good Company,” a companion exhibit presented in conjunction with “Full Circle,” will feature artists from McIver’s orbit, including his mentors, Faith Ringgold and Richard Mayhew, and some of his students over the years. who are now practicing artists.
After its presentation at SMoCA, “Beverly McIver: Full Circle” will visit two additional sites:
- Southeastern Contemporary Art Center, Winston Salem, North Carolina | December 8, 2022 – March 26, 2023
- Gibbes Art Museum, Charleston, South Carolina | April 28-August. 4, 2023
A new catalog will be published on the occasion of the exhibition. The volume will feature a conversation between McIver and Boganey and essays by art historian Duke Richard Powell and Michelle Wallace, the black feminist writer and daughter of Ringgold.
“I am honored to see ‘Beverly McIver: Full Circle’ open at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art,” Boganey said. “It’s truly a complete moment, considering that SMoCA was one of the first arts institutions in the West to recognize the importance of Beverly’s artwork in 1998. Beverly’s works are now known on a scale. National and featured in many notable museums and personal collections, but it’s a time to celebrate his trip here in Arizona. CT
IMAGE: Above, right, Portrait of Beverly McIver. | Photo by Denise Allen
LEARN MORE about Beverly McIver on her website
READ MORE McIver spoke to Duke Arts about his recent political paintings
READ MORE McIver was featured by The New York Times ahead of Raising Renee’s airing on HBO
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Black Girl Beauty”, 2018 (oil on canvas). | © Beverly McIver, Collection of Matthew Polk and Amy Gould, Maryland
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Double Amputee”, 2013 (oil on canvas. 48 x 36 inches). | © Beverly McIver, courtesy of the artist
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Clown Portrait”, 2018 (oil on canvas. 45 x 34 inches). | © Beverly McIver, Collection of Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, New York
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Dora’s Dance # 3”, 2002 (oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches). | © Beverly McIver, Collection of The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC Purchased with funds provided by Jay Everette, Ronald Carter, Cheryl Palmer and Frank Tucker, Andy Dews and Tom Warshauer, Dee Dixon, Patty and Alex Funderburg, Michael J. Teaford and RK Benites, Sharon and Rob Harrington, June and Ken Lambla, Mike Davis, Judy and Patrick Diamond, anonymous donor in honor of Amber Smith, anonymous donor
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Invisible Me”, 1999 (oil on canvas, 35 1/2 x 35 1/2 inches). | © Beverly McIver, courtesy of Douglas Walla, New York
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Life Is Sweet”, 1998 (oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches). | © Beverly McIver, Collection of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art; purchased with funds from the New Directions Fund
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Daddy’s Birthday”, 2015 (oil on canvas, 60 x 60 inches). | © Beverly McIver, courtesy of the artist
BEVERLY MCIVER, “Defiant”, 2020 (oil on canvas. 40 x 40 inches). | © Beverly McIver, courtesy of Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, 21c Museum Hotels
The catalog for the exhibition “Beverly McIver: Full Circle” will be released in February. Several other publications documenting the artist’s exhibitions have limited availability.
TYPE OF SUPPORT CULTURE
Do you like and appreciate the type of culture? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent art history project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help maintain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It just takes a minute. Thank you very much for your support.