Beverly Buchanan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Beverly Buchanan
Beverly Buchanan.jpg
BornOctober 8, 1940
DiedJuly 4, 2015(2015-07-04) (aged 74)

Beverly Buchanan (October 8, 1940 – July 4, 2015)[1] was an African-American artist whose works include painting, sculpture, video, and land art. Buchanan is noted for her exploration of Southern vernacular architecture through her art.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Buchanan was born in Fuquay, North Carolina, and was raised by her great-aunt and uncle in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where her adoptive father was dean of the School of Agriculture at South Carolina State College—then the only state school for African Americans in South Carolina.[2][3]

Buchanan spent a considerable amount of time with her father on his trips where he would work with rural farmers, advising them in their farming processes.[4][5]

In 1962, Buchanan graduated from Bennett College, in Greensboro, North Carolina, a historically black women's college, with a Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology.[6] She went on to attend Columbia University, where she received a master's degree in parasitology in 1968, and a master's degree in public health in 1969.[6] While working in New Jersey, Buchanan applied to medical school; although she was accepted to medical school as an alternate at Mt. Sinai, Buchanan decided not to go due to her desire to dedicate more time to her art.[7][5] Part of this choice consisted of her decision to "express the images, stories, and architecture of her African American childhood".[2]


In 1971, Buchanan enrolled in a class taught by Norman Lewis at the Art Students League in New York City. Lewis, along with artist Romare Bearden, became friends and mentors to Buchanan.[2] This relationship with Bearden happened after an accidental incident at a concert where Bearden designed a poster for the event. Buchanan bumped into Norman Lewis backstage while trying to get the Bearden poster signed, and Lewis took Buchanan back stage to meet Bearden. Buchanan later wrote a letter to Bearden reminding him of that event and Bearden became her mentor and had her display her art at the Cinque Gallery.[5] Buchanan decided to become a full-time artist in 1977 after exhibiting her work in a new talent show at Betty Parsons Gallery.[8] In the same year, she moved to Macon, Georgia.[2]

In 1976 and 1977, Buchanan drew "black walls" on paper.[9] She "wanted to see what the wall looked like on the other side" and put four walls together in three dimensions.[9] She then began to sculpt in cement. An example of a three-dimensional work from her early career is the sculpture "Ruins and Rituals" at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, Georgia, part of a series of concrete structures that recall ancient tombs.[10]

Buchanan is best known for her many paintings and sculptures on the "shack," a rudimentary dwelling associated with the poor.[11] Scholar Janet T. Marquardt argues that Buchanan treats shacks not as documentary elements but as "images of endurance and personal history"; often using bright colors and a style of childlike simplicity, the works "evoke the warmth and happiness that can be found even in the meanest dwelling, representing the faith and caring that is not reserved for privileged classes."[11] Her art takes the form of stone pedestals, bric-a brac assemblages, funny poems, self portraits and sculptural shacks. But potent themes of identity, place and collective memory unite the works uncovering the animus that runs through them: to connect with those around her and reckon with the history that shaped her communities.[12]

Buchanan is noted to have seen viewers sitting on her stone art piece Unity Stones, but let the men remain seated because she did not mind people sitting on her pieces as they contemplated the work and it represented. "The piece serves as a communal place to sit and talk, and do the other things that we do."[13]

Scholar Alex Campbell notes in an essay how Buchanan worked in a studio on College Street in Macon, GA which served as an unofficial racial dividing line for the town. It "separated the working- and middle-class black part of town from the middle-class and affluent white part of town".[14]

In 1981, Buchanan created Marsh Ruins, a temporal land art sculpture in coastal Georgia near a commentated site known as "The Marshes of Glenn." To the east of the work was Saint Simons Island, where a group of Igbo people sold into slavery collectively drowned themselves in 1803. This work bears witness to the unmarked histories of enslaved peoples. There she planted three concrete forms and covered them with layers of tabby, a mixture used in slave living quarters. Marsh Ruins gradually disintegrated into the marsh. Buchanan captured that erosion process on video.[15]

Buchanan said of her work, "My work is a logical progression of my early interest in textures and surfaces and walls. The early "walls" were lonely, freestanding, fragmented things. When I lived in New York I was looking for things that were demolished. That gave them character. I liked to imagine who might have lived in the apartment, and whose home it might have been. Each family that moved in repainted the walls their color. When a building is torn down the various layers of color are exposed. It is almost surgical--like looking through a microscope and looking at different layers of tissue and media."[16]

In an interview with Angela Son, Son asked Buchanan what her concept of home was and Buchanan responded with, "[Home] means what I've stablished and where I am, wherever that is. And it means South Carolina, where I grew up... I consider home as where I grew up."[17]

On July 4, 2015, Buchanan died in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the age of seventy-four.[1] In the fall of 2016 a comprehensive exhibition of her work opened at the Brooklyn Museum in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Beverly Buchanan - Ruins and Rituals featured painting, sculptures, drawings, as well as the artist's notebooks and photographs form her personal archive.[18][19]

Buchanan's work was featured at the Independent Art Fair 2017 at Andrew Edlin Gallery's booth.[20] Buchanan has remarked, "A lot of my pieces have the word ‘ruins’ in their titles because I think that tells you this object has been through a lot and survived — that’s the idea behind the sculptures ... it’s like, ‘Here I am; I’m still here!'"[21][22]

Buchanan's work is in the collection of the Addison Art Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Georgia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art,[7] and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.[23]


Selected solo exhibitions[edit]

List from exhibition catalogue "9 Women in Georgia"[16]


  1. ^ a b "Beverly Buchanan: Obituary". Ann Arbor News. 9 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Klacsmann, Karen Towers (6 May 2005). "Arts & Culture. Visual Arts. Beverly Buchanan (1940-2015)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b "The Johnson Collection: Beverly Buchanan".
  4. ^ Quinton, Jared. "Beverly Buchanan Ruins and Rituals". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Yerman, Marcia G. (December 31, 2013). "Beverly Buchanan - An interview with Marcia G. Yerman". Marcia G. Yerman. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Beverly Buchanan" (1999). Contemporary Women Artists. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved via Biography in Context, 1 January 2017.
  7. ^ a b "New Georgia Encyclopedia".
  8. ^ Buchanan, Beverly (1994). "Shack Portraiture: An Interview with Beverly Buchanan". In Flomenhaft, Eleanor (ed.). Beverly Buchanan: ShackWorks, a 16-year survey. Montclair, NJ: Montclair Art Museum. p. 12.
  9. ^ a b Buchanan, Beverly (1994). "Shack Portraiture: An Interview with Beverly Buchanan". In Flomenhaft, Eleanor (ed.). Beverly Buchanan: ShackWorks. p. 13.
  10. ^ "Ruins and Rituals". Collections. Museum of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 30 April 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  11. ^ a b Marquardt, Janet T. "Beverly Buchanan Archived 2015-03-27 at the Wayback Machine", section in 2005 CWA Annual Recognition Awards. College Art Association. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  12. ^ Gotthardt, Alexxa (2016-10-27). "Fiercely Independent Artist Beverly Buchanan Finally Gets the Retrospective She Deserves". Artsy. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  13. ^ Campbell, Andy (2016). ""We're Going To See Blood On Them Next": Beverly Buchanan's Georgia Ruins and Black Negativity". Rhizomes. Issue 29 – via Google Scholar.
  14. ^ Campbell, Alex (2017). "Beverly Buchanan". Art Papers. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  15. ^ ""The Brooklyn Museum Gives Fiercely Independent Artist Beverly Buchanan the Retrospective She Deserves"". Artsy.
  16. ^ a b Georgia Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (1996). 9 Women in Georgia: An Exhibition of Contemporary Art.
  17. ^ Son, Angela (November 8, 2012). "Interview with Beverly Buchanan". Art Animal. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  18. ^ "Brooklyn Museum: Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals". Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  19. ^ "Ruins and Rituals exhibition review". Art in America. Art in America. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  20. ^ Greenberger, Alex (2017-03-02). "Beverly Buchanan House Sculptures Charm at Independent Art Fair". ARTnews. Retrieved 2017-07-01.
  21. ^ Almino, Elisa Wouk. "From Mysterious Erotica to Holy Bell Jars, Singular Projects at the Independent Art Fair". Hyperallergic. 2017-03-03. Retrieved 2017-07-01.
  22. ^ Cotter, Holland (2017-04-20). "To Be Black, Female and Fed Up With the Mainstream". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-07-01.
  23. ^ "Mid Line Fault". High Museum of Art. Retrieved 2020-03-31.
  24. ^ "Beverly Buchanan". Guggenheim Foundation. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.

External links[edit]