The NCMA’s Spring Educator Expo in Rocky Mount is quickly approaching, and we’re all getting excited for the expo’s focus—“identity”—and our special guest speaker, Beverly McIver. What do we mean when we say “identity”? Identity can be defined as “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is” or “the qualities or beliefs that make a particular person or group different from others.” Social, cultural, national, racial, gender, and religious identities shape our lives and our perceptions of ourselves. As an artist and professor of art, Beverly McIver is strongly influenced by her racial, social, and gender identities, and this influence is apparent in many of her self-portraits. At the expo, McIver will attempt to address how the concept of identity influences and inspires her work and how she influences a student’s sense of self as a teacher.
McIver’s work Reminiscing is a series of self-portraits that reflect the artist’s’ emotions in a time of transition. When these self-portraits were painted, McIver was dealing with the sudden death of her mother and her new responsibilities as caregiver to her mentally disabled sister. The portraits depict McIver in mourning, pensively contemplating her and her sister’s future. McIver depicts herself in blackface in an attempt to reclaim stereotypes about African American women and as a way of reflecting on her experiences as a black woman. Raised by a single mother in low-income housing, McIver grew up keenly aware of her racial and social status and sought escape from her circumstances through participation in a clown club. The clown club allowed McIver to hide her identity and race through white face paint. In Reminiscing McIver turns her former attitudes on their head by asking women to confront their identity.
The upcoming Educator Expo will give teachers a chance to hear more about McIver’s work and her experiences as an artist and teacher. We hope to see you there!