McIver is renowned for her expression-filled, emotive canvases that commemorate her life and the lives of those closest to her—in particular, her mother, who passed away in 2004, and her sister, who is mentally disabled. Such works reveal as much about the artist as they do about the subjects portrayed therein. As McIver has noted about her paintings, “All of my portraits are self-portraits,” says the artist. “I use the faces of others who reflect my most inner being.”
In Truly Grateful, the artist moves her focus away from her family and back towards herself, and the resulting self-portrait is one of quiet, contemplative acceptance. The artist represents herself at bust length, draped in a bright blue scarf, with her head bowed and eyes closed, perhaps in midst of prayer. McIver’s signature brushwork, patchy and lively, adds a marked contrast to an otherwise peaceful scene. She does not highlight any other figures or objects in this canvas, allowing the viewer to focus solely on the artist herself and her emotional state. The yellow-orange background surrounds her figure with a warm glow, reminiscent of the traditional gold-leaf ground seen in traditional European icons. As a result, the painting exudes a calming, almost spiritual atmosphere.
It is possible to examine McIver’s personal biography to determine the significance of the title, Truly Grateful. Over the past five years, McIver has grappled with the ongoing repercussions of her mother’s death. Her mother’s passing left Renee, McIver’s sister, without a caretaker to provide her with the assistance, comfort and protection required due to her disabilities. McIver, bolstered by a promise made to her mother years prior, became Renee’s primary guardian, taking on all related responsibilities and allowing her sister to move into her home. After years of struggle, Renee recently moved into her own apartment complex for the handicapped and disabled, freeing McIver to pursue her artistic career at a more fervent pace while being reassured of Renee’s continued care and contentment.
Tags: contemporary, emotions, North Carolina
Gift in memory of Janet Martin Lampkin, former member of the executive committee of the Friends of African and African American Art
© Beverly McIver