slightly sketchy image of standing black girl with short bushy black hair wearing a white dress, white gloves and white socks with black sandals, holding two dolls; girl has exaggerated frowning "black face", with white around her eyes and mouth and white spot on each cheek; rectangular portrait of a clown with a tiny red hat, red clown nose, red and yellow striped tie and green and black checked jacket in URC; blue ground overall

© Beverly McIver

Pretty is...a Little Black Girl, 2002

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The Plautz Family Endowmentexpand_more  2014.121.5

Not on Viewexpand_more

In this lithographic self-portrait, Beverly McIver depicts herself in blackface make-up, standing alone in an intentionally ambiguous setting, gazing pensively at the viewer. Dressed in a maid’s uniform (her mother was a domestic worker), she wears a clown’s wig and white gloves, cradling a pair of black-skinned dolls in her arm. Her shoes and socks are those of a child. On the wall behind her hangs a portrait of a grinning circus clown. The unconventional, pared-down composition focuses our attention on the details of figure’s costume and the accompanying props. The scene recounts a recurring dream from McIver’s childhood. She explained: “As a child I had dreamed of becoming a clown to escape my black skin, poverty and the housing project I once called home. Clowning was my disguise, my liberation.” For McIver, the self-portrait is a journey in self-revelation in which she confronts black stereotypes while seeking her own identity as a woman and an African American.

Details
Title
Pretty is...a Little Black Girl
Artist Life
born 1962
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2014.121.5
Provenance
Segura Arts Studio, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN (publisher); sold to MIA, 2014
Curator Approved

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slightly sketchy image of standing black girl with short bushy black hair wearing a white dress, white gloves and white socks with black sandals, holding two dolls; girl has exaggerated frowning "black face", with white around her eyes and mouth and white spot on each cheek; rectangular portrait of a clown with a tiny red hat, red clown nose, red and yellow striped tie and green and black checked jacket in URC; blue ground overall

© Beverly McIver

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