Truly Grateful (Artful Devotion)

McIver, Beverly_Truly Grateful
Beverly McIver (American, 1962–), Truly Grateful, 2011. Oil on canvas, 30 × 30 in. (76.2 × 76.2 cm). North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

. . . You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness . . .

—Psalm 86:12–13, 15

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SONG: “Gospel Medley” by Beyoncé Knowles, Kirk Franklin, and Richard Smallwood | Performed by Destiny’s Child, on Survivor (2001)

The liner notes of Survivor credit Beyoncé [previously], Kirk Franklin, and Richard Smallwood as the writers of this song, but from what I can tell, the credit goes mainly to Beyoncé, who has woven together different gospel fragments and, it seems, written the first two-thirds of the song, which fan web pages say is an interpolation of Franklin’s “Now Behold the Lamb” and “So Good” (I myself can’t hear much of a resemblance). This is followed by a gospel rendition of the Anna B. Warner hymn “Jesus Loves Me” that is much like the one Michele Lamar Richards and Whitney Houston sing in the 1992 movie The Bodyguard. The medley concludes with the “Amen” section of Smallwood’s “Total Praise.”

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About the above painting by Beverly McIver, the North Carolina Museum of Art writes,

McIver is renowned for her expression-filled, emotive canvases that commemorate her life and the lives of those closest to her—in particular, her mother, who passed away in 2004, and her sister, who is mentally disabled. Such works reveal as much about the artist as they do about the subjects portrayed therein. As McIver has noted about her paintings, “All of my portraits are self-portraits,” says the artist. “I use the faces of others who reflect my most inner being.”

In Truly Grateful, the artist moves her focus away from her family and back towards herself, and the resulting self-portrait is one of quiet, contemplative acceptance. The artist represents herself at bust length, draped in a bright blue scarf, with her head bowed and eyes closed, perhaps in midst of prayer. McIver’s signature brushwork, patchy and lively, adds a marked contrast to an otherwise peaceful scene. She does not highlight any other figures or objects in this canvas, allowing the viewer to focus solely on the artist herself and her emotional state. The yellow-orange background surrounds her figure with a warm glow, reminiscent of the traditional gold-leaf ground seen in traditional European icons. As a result, the painting exudes a calming, almost spiritual atmosphere.

It is possible to examine McIver’s personal biography to determine the significance of the title, Truly Grateful. Over the past five years, McIver has grappled with the ongoing repercussions of her mother’s death. Her mother’s passing left Renee, McIver’s sister, without a caretaker to provide her with the assistance, comfort and protection required due to her disabilities. McIver, bolstered by a promise made to her mother years prior, became Renee’s primary guardian, taking on all related responsibilities and allowing her sister to move into her home. After years of struggle, Renee recently moved into her own apartment complex for the handicapped and disabled, freeing McIver to pursue her artistic career at a more fervent pace while being reassured of Renee’s continued care and contentment.


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for Proper 11, cycle A, click here.

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