Beverly McIver, the acclaimed painter who's represented locally by Grimaldis Gallery, lights up Raising Renee, the moving documentary that premiered on HBO last night. McIver has exhibited her work in solo shows at Grimaldis in 2003 and 2007 and lectured at the BMA and the Reginald Lewis Museum, and she's well-known in art circles for her narrative paintings that explore notions of race, relationships, and family. In fact, McIver's family members—including her mother, father, and sisters—have been her subjects for years. Raising Renee, the documentary, brings those paintings to life in startlingly beautiful ways by providing an intimate and unflinching portrait of McIver's family, especially the complex relationship between Beverly and her sister, Renee, who is developmentally and intellectually disabled.
Renee lived with their mother for her entire life in Greensboro, North Carolina. But after the mother passed away, McIver brought Renee to her home in Arizona, where she was teaching at the time. Filmmakers Jeanne Jordan and Steven Ascher capture the challenges faced by a rising art star, as she navigates between an intense career and intense home life. Because McIver does it with humor and pluck and a generous helping of candor, the film transcends feel good sentimetality and succeeds as a compelling portrait that's both provocative and irresistable—just like McIver's paintings.
You can catch the film on HBO2 this Saturday or watch it On Demand. And the next time you see McIver's work at Grimaldis, you'll feel a kinship to the people in those paintings and enormous respect for the woman who created them.