I lived in New York City in 2004, grateful to have received a studio through Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation. The Foundation provides free studio for a year to artists. Receiving the studio space is competitive (over 1,200 artists typically apply for 17 vacant spaces), so being accepted provides an incredible opportunity to live, work, and breathe in one of the most culturally and artistically diverse locations in the world. My memories from that time are bittersweet, however, since it was the culmination of several major career-changing moments in my life – and it coincided with the death of my mother.
Fast-forward to 2012, when the director of the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation, Joyce Robinson, happened to attend a screening of the HBO documentary, “Raising Renee,” in Colorado. The film documents the promise to my mother to take care of my mentally retarded sister Renee after her death from cancer. After the film, Joyce talked with me, and suggested that I apply for the Foundation studio space, and revisit the opportunity to paint again in New York. I initially dismissed the thought, since I wasn’t too interested in picking up and moving. Life in North Carolina had its set of challenges, but the thought of relocating to New York again seemed initially stressful. But then I thought, “Why not?” I applied. And I was accepted, again.
So I packed up, brought my three cats along with me, and got my same apartment building on 34th Street, right across from one of my favorite stores, Macy’s, knowing that I likely couldn’t afford it, but wanting to take full advantage of this opportunity once again. I also knew this would be a chance to think about what my last stay here meant, and the memories associated with my mother. I was also looking forward to painting, and exploring the thoughts that pervaded my memories.
So many things happened while I was in New York: Hurricane Sandy turned the city into a disaster zone; my New York gallery, Betty Cuningham Gallery exhibited my work; I enjoyed dinner with my closest friends in Manhattan, Philip and Dorothy Pearlstein; and I even went on a few uneventful dates. Most importantly, however, I was able to simply paint. The studio space in Brooklyn was full of light; from a wall of windows I could look out on the Manhattan Bridge. The noise from the nearby subway trains was a constant low-grade rumble.
Initially, I painted topics familiar to me – self-portraits in happy as well as dark moments, and portraits of my friends and people that I admire, including dancer and choreographer, Bill T. Jones. I also began reaching beyond my usual subject matter. The subway fascinated me, particularly the people who ride the trains. I would surreptitiously take pictures of total strangers, and those images then became portraits. I enjoyed painting them, hoping to capture the moment in time that the subway ride is: the tightly enclosed space which throws together all walks of life, folks who have no choice but to relate to each other. The faces, the body postures, even the objects people carried told incredible unspoken stories. The performers on the 34th street subway platform also intrigued me; I wanted to capture their energetic movements and the passion they brought to the underground.
The year passed quickly. Living in New York in 2013, as opposed to 2004, was an opportunity to reflect on myself, and what has happened in my life in the last nine years. I am the product of my life’s stories, and my paintings are a clear reflection of this. This past year in New York has allowed me to give closure to pivotal moments in my life. I am grateful, and look forward to sharing new stories.
ABOUT BEVERLY MCIVER
Beverly McIver was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1962. She is the youngest of three girls born to Ethel McIver. Her oldest sister Renee is mentally disabled. Renee is 48 but has the mindset of a second grader. Beverly is Renee’s legal guardian.
Beverly is widely acknowledged as a significant presence in contemporary American art in general and has charted a new direction as an African American woman artist. She is committed to producing art that consistently examines racial, gender, social and occupational identity. Her sister Renee is a frequent subject of the artist as well as other family members.
“Raising Renee”, a feature-length documentary film produced in association with HBO by Academy Award-nominated and award-winning filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan, tells the story of the impact of McIver’s promise to care for her sister when their mother dies. It will premiere at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
Her work is in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, N.C., the Baltimore Museum of Art, the NCCU Museum of Art , the Asheville Museum of Art, The Crocker Art Museum and the Nelson Fine Arts Museum on the campus of Arizona State University.
She is currently the Suntrust Endowed Chair Professor of Art at North Carolina Central University. Prior to this appointment, McIver taught at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. for twelve years, Duke University, North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University. She has also held residencies at many of the nation’s leading artist communities, including YADDO, the Headland Center for the Arts, Djerassi, and Penland School of Crafts. She has served on the board at Penland School of Arts and Crafts and currently serves on the board of directors at YADDO in Saratoga Springs, NY.
McIver’s work has been reviewed in Art News, Art in America The New York Times and a host of local newspapers. She has received numerous grants and awards including the Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation grant, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship from Harvard University, a Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation award, a distinguished Alumni Award from Pennsylvania State University, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award and Creative Capital grant.
McIver will have a solo show at the Betty Cunningham Gallery in New York City in May, and a solo exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of Art in the winter of 2011.
McIver earned a bachelor’s degree in art from North Carolina Central University, a master of fine arts degree in painting from Pennsylvania State University and an honorary doctorate from North Carolina Central University.
ABOUT SMALL WORKS
Beverly McIver: Small Works, opens with a reception with the artist on February 25th, from 5 to 7 pm. The artist will also give a painting demonstration and gallery talk on March 24 from 5 to 7 pm.
While viewers can see a major retrospective of McIver currently at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Small Works offers a portrait of the artist working in a more intimate scale, mixed media on paper and monoprints, as well as her signature oils on canvas. The exhibition showcases some very personal pieces; text, sewing—a craft she learned from her mother—and collage feature in many of the paintings. Although smaller in size, the artworks in Small Works have the beauty and power of self-revelation so evident in her largest paintings. Also on view will be a recent portrait of the artist by her mentor, Philip Pearlstein. A documentary about McIver, Raising Renee, will be featured in February on HBO.
“The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World” opens at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art with a book launch and exhibition on November 17th that will celebrate and honor Linda Lee Alter’s Collection of Art by Women, a collection of about 500 works of art that she recently donated to PAFA. The exhibition and book are called “The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World”.
Work by Beverly McIver is included in the exhibit.
The exhibit will be on view through April 7, 2013 – a good long run. The entire PAFA community has been enriched – faculty, students, museum audience, museum staff – by Lee’s extraordinary gift.
A documentary about McIver, Raising Renee is currently being featured on HBO.
Painter Beverly McIver Balances Art and Family, Barely, in the HBO Documentary “Raising Renee”
ARTINFO.COM – February 22, 2012: “Painter Beverly McIver Balances Art and Family, Barely, in the HBO Documentary ‘Raising Renee” by Sarah Kricheff
NYPRESS.COM – February 22, 2012: “Raising Renee: A Sit Down With the Subject of the Powerful New Documentary” by Noah Wunsch
MOVIEBUZZERS.COM – February 22, 2012: 8 out of 10 star review by Melissa Hanson
BEVERLY MCIVER: IN THE NEWS
Blue Greenberg’s column “Two exhibits tells stories of survival” about Beverly McIver
in the Herald Sun
Tar Heel of the Week: Artist, Beverly McIver, creates more than art
From the Raleigh News & Observer, June 19
now showing at the North Carolina Museum of Art
Read the review by Chris Vitiello in the January 4th