Beverly McIver – Black Self Diary, Faith R. and Maya, Family
Dimensions: 16 x 16″ unframed
Medium: ink, paper, sewn onto canvas
Beverly McIver’s graduate school experience at the University of Pennsylvania was a painful one. She was one of the few black MFA students, and her advisors were less than supportive. In fact, the attrition rate at the U Penn MFA program among black students was so high, that her professors withheld her diploma in attempts to keep her as a student remaining on campus. It was artist Faith Ringgold, another black woman artist, that mentored Beverly at that dark time in her life. She advised McIver to paint her truth and her lived experience–advice that has contributed to McIver becoming one of the most successful black women artists of our day. This diary entry about her relationship with both Faith Ringgold and Maya Angelou shows McIver’s own vulnerability while illustrating the impact of Ringgold’s and Angelou’s support in her life.
Beverly McIver is an icon of reconciliation and resilience. Growing up in the projects of Greensboro, North Carolina in the 1960’s, the child of a single mom with a mentally disabled sister in the household, odds were stacked against her. She was bussed across town from the projects to a wealthy white neighborhood for high school, yet she watched a man be shot by the KKK outside the window of her own house. She attended graduate school at Penn State where there was so much attrition by Black students that her advisors purposely kept her at school for an additional year before awarding her degree. At Penn State, she met artist Faith Ringgold, who shared the struggle of being a female Black artist, and became a lifelong friend and mentor. McIver’s vulnerable, poignant paintings allow us to see inside her lived experience. It is incumbent upon us to do so, to include her in the art historical canon and to comprehend a history that has been previously ignored.
McIver will no doubt be regarded as one of the most important Black female painters of the 20th/21st century.
Curator, Kim Boganey, who curated Beverly McIver’s first exhibition in Arizona more than a decade ago was the curator and exhibition organizer of Beverly McIver’s retrospective titled “Beverly McIver: Full Circle”, which premiered at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary art, and which is touring nationally.
Boganey was the Director of Public Art in Scottsdale before moving on to be the director of the Ontario Museum. She also authored the monograph “Beverly McIver: Full Circle” with essays included by top African American feminist writer Michelle Faith Wallace, Faith Ringgold’s daughter.
Smithsonian and Metropolitan Museum of Art fellow and leading African American art historian, Richard Powell, also contributed an essay to Boganey’s book on McIver. Boganey lectures about Beverly McIver’s artwork around the country and is a foremost expert on her work.