Addressing questions of identity, Beverly McIver’s autobiographical portraits explore not only themes of race, class, and gender, but also the complexities of relationships with family, friends, and the self. McIver’s expressive brushwork quickly and effectively conveys her subject, usually the artist herself, her mother, or her sister. These portraits also reveal the artist’s emotional relationship to the subject, which can be a maze of anger, love, resentment, grief, or happiness.
Love Mom is a portrait of the artist’s late mother, Ethel McIver, who was a domestic worker in Greensboro, North Carolina, around the time of the civil rights movement. Using bright colors that recall Fauvist portraiture by Henri Matisse, McIver portrays her mother in a traditional portrait pose, with her head turned to look straight at the viewer. In the painting—based on a photograph the artist looks at daily—Ethel McIver’s sympathetic eyes, shown behind glasses, connect with the viewer and with her daughter, the painter, as well.
The painting’s simple background allows the artist’s mother to become the sole focus. There are no distractions to pull the viewer’s eyes away from her, nor are there visual clues as to what she is thinking. While Ethel McIver’s expression is elusive and mysterious, the straightforward depiction nonetheless suggests the artist’s love and respect for her mother, who died in 2004.
Love Mom is on view with a selection of works by women artists from the Nasher Museum’s permanent collection through December 4, 2011.
Selections from the Nasher Museum of Art
October 1, 2011