Beverly McIver – Gracie II
Dimensions: 30 x 30″ unframed
Medium: oil on canvas
Beverly McIver began painting Gracie, a black doll given to her by a curator friend, in 2015. Gracie reminded McIver of herself as a child, innocent, cute, and happy. McIver had grown up with only white dolls, so it was quite special to her to have a black doll that she related to, even if it was as an adult.
Beverly McIver grew up in the projects in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the drug store sit-ins and KKK shootings were a well known reality. Racism was rampant, and McIver’s mother — a single mom– worked as a maid to support her three children, one of whom had a mental disability.
Beverly McIver was bussed across town to attend high school at a predominantly white school in the wealthy part of town. She had grown up playing with readily available white dolls, a constant reminder that she was an outsider.
Years later, as an adult, a curator friend of McIver’s gave her a black rag doll McIver named Gracie, and McIver set about creating a series of paintings about Gracie. McIver writes, “The doll was different from the other dolls I had. She reminded me of myself as a child. I found her cute and innocent. I fell in love with her immediately.”
In high school, the only time she felt that she fit in was when she was in clown club, where all the clowns wore white make up and yellow yarn wigs. She decided she wanted to be a clown, and wanted to audition for Ringling Bros. She was told Ringling did not accept black people or women to be clowns.
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.