Thursday, February 16, 2012

Documentary Explores Artist's Role as Caregiver

Beverly McIver, above, and her sister
Renee are the subjects of an HBO
DURHAM, N.C. -- When she left North Carolina 23 years ago, Beverly McIver never imagined returning. Feisty, talented and ambitious, Ms. McIver was more than eager to shake off the warm clinches of her family and the chilly, intractable racism of the South.
And in her lush, narrative paintings — for which she has gathered, at midcareer, an impressive array of fellowships, residencies, solo shows and awards — she has never stopped exploring those themes. Portraits of herself in blackface and a clown’s wig show her kinship with artists like Cindy Sherman; in her “laundry” paintings, her mother and her mentally disabled older sister, Renee, hang wash on a clothesline, lyrical compositions that recall the work of Millet and other 19th-century realists.
But in 2007, Ms. McIver, now 49, was lured from a tenured position at Arizona State University by North Carolina Central University, the historically black university where she had learned to paint. By then, her mother had died of cancer and left Ms. McIver with the care of Renee, a responsibility she assumed just as her career was taking off.
“Raising Renee,” a documentary that will be shown on Feb. 22 on HBO, follows the sisters for six years, from Ms. McIver’s first New York City solo gallery show in 2003 to the day Renee, now 52, wakes up in her own apartment, a rather miraculous turn of events.

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