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Truly Grateful (work of art)

Artwork Info

30 x 30 inches (76.2 x 76.2 centimeters)
Oil on canvas


Gift in memory of Janet Martin Lampkin, former member of the executive committee of the Friends of African and African American Art

© Beverly McIver

Object Number
American North Carolina

Key Ideas

  • Beverly McIver is known for her expressive self-portraits that are inspired by her own life experiences. This self-portrait depicts the artist in a moment of peace, reflection, and gratitude.
  • The warm orange background in this painting looks similar to the traditional gold leaf backgrounds in older European paintings.
  • After her mother’s death in 2004, McIver was left with heavy grief, as well as the responsibility to take care of her sister, who has a mental disability. McIver became her sister’s primary guardian, following through on a promise she made to her mother. 

Learn More

Artist Beverly McIver was born and raised in North Carolina. She is best known for her expression-filled paintings that commemorate her life and the lives of her loved ones. Many of her paintings depict her mother and her sister. These works reveal as much about the artist as they do about the subjects she portrays. 

“All of my portraits are self-portraits. I use the faces of others who reflect my most inner being.”
-Beverly McIver

In Truly Grateful the artist shifts her focus from her family to herself. The resulting self-portrait portrays quiet acceptance. The artist depicts herself wearing a black jacket and a blue scarf, with her head bowed and her eyes closed. McIver’s lively brushstrokes add contrast to an otherwise peaceful scene. She does not highlight any other figures or objects in this painting. This allows the viewer to focus on the image of the artist and her emotional state. The warm orange background creates a calm, almost spiritual glow around the subject. The effect is similar to that of the gold leaf backgrounds seen in medieval and early Renaissance paintings, which symbolized divine light. 

Since 2004 McIver has dealt with the ongoing effects of her mother’s death. Her mother’s passing left Renee, McIver’s sister, without a caregiver. McIver kept a promise she made to her mother years before and became Renee’s primary guardian. She moved her sister into her home and provided the assistance, comfort, and protection Renee needs due to her mental disability. After years of struggle, Renee moved into an apartment complex for individuals with disabilities. McIver is able to pursue her artistic career at a faster pace while being reassured by her sister’s continued care.

tags: contemporary, emotions, North Carolina

Additional Resources

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Resources for Students:


  • A painting of a Black woman with short brown hair, set against an orange background. She is bowing her head and wearing a black jacket and a light blue scarf.

    Truly Grateful