Her Silent Scream

“Can you hear my silent scream?” These poignant words are scratched into a painting by Beverly McIver, the Addision Gallery’s 2005-2006 Edward E. Elson Artist-in-Residence. Of her painting, McIver said, “The actual face is my sister’s, but the scream is mine.” Her explanation reflects some of the conflicting emotions McIver used to feel towards her older sister Renee. McIver was born in 1962 to a single mother in North Carolina. She had two older sisters, and the oldest, Renee, was mentally disabled. As a child, Renee was very violent towards McIver and her other sister, beating them, throwing them down stairs, along with countless other abuses. Beverly couldn’t defend herself while her mother wouldn’t, claiming that Renee couldn’t help the way she was. Over the years, McIver’s emotions of anger and sadness bottled up inside. Eventually, she began having “horrible flashbacks,” of repressed memories in her dreams at night. With the encouragement of a college art teacher, McIver began painting, and eventually switched her major from psychology to painting. McIver’s paintings reflect the depth of her personal growth and maturation over the years. Her older paintings reflect her anger and sadness towards Renee from her younger years. Paintings with Renee’s face off to the side show the young McIver attempting to push Renee out of the center of attention. In some paintings, Renee’s face is scratched out with a paintbrush. McIver said that she felt guilty for the defilement, but that at the time, she did not know what drove her to make the changes. Another painting portrays a sort of epileptic Renee, representing the idea of Renee’s violent side versus her gentler, sweet side. In 1986, McIver moved from North Carolina to Arizona to take up a teaching position. In Arizona, she started looking for that “special someone,” and she also started to miss the culture of the African American community. To McIver’s dismay, she realized in her search for someone that she didn’t have very many African-American options. Further, she realized that she had never been attracted to a white male. With this realization, McIver started trying to change her mindset. McIver’s pain in missing her community and looking for someone inspired several paintings of herself in pain. McIver also asked the African American women present about how they felt on inter-racial dating. Several replied that they had never even been attracted to Caucausian males before they came to P.A., and most said that they could not see themselves in a long term relationship with a white man. In response to this, McIver said, “It breaks my heart that we can’t be attracted to different people without ramifications.” From there, McIver’s presentation moved to more recent paintings, including her favorite one currently on display. The painting, simply called “Momma,” portrays Beverly’s mother about 2 months before her death, a year and a half years ago. McIver’s mother didn’t know the severity of her illness, pancreatic cancer, and according to Beverly she was “like a cat.” She had a high tolerance of pain, and she never showed it. Instead, she bore the pain with “incredible grace and dignity,” and in the painting, Beverly tried to show her frailty, but at the same time, her quiet strength. Other paintings range from Beverly in her mother’s footsteps, to Renee “breaking loose,” and Renee’s 45th birthday. According to McIver, who is now Renee’s primary caretaker, Renee is no longer violent. Renee loves holidays, and she is also incredibly articulate. McIver said, “I don’t know if I’m talking to a 2nd grader or a full-grown adult.” McIver’s most recent painting reveals how much her relationship with her sister has grown: It is a picture of her and Renee embracing.