Beverly Buchanan - Photo of the artist - Image via nnamdicenter

Beverly Buchanan/ Beverly Buchanan

United States 1940 - 2015

Sculpture, Painting, Prints

beverlybuchanan.com

Beverly Buchanan
Beverly Buchanan
Female
United States
1940

Beverly Buchanan was an African-American artist who explored Southern vernacular architecture in her highly unorthodox and abstract art. Her work mainly consisted of paintings and sculptures, although she was not scared of venturing into the creative territories of prints and photos as well. Beverly Buchanan’s art was all about hope and not giving up, as evidenced by the artist’s following quote: 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 my sculptures … it’s like, ‘Here I am; I’m still here! Such an approach to making art was what fed the conceptual basis of her work and was also what turned Beverly Buchanan into one of the greatest female artists of her generation.

Beverly Buchanan - Photo of the artist working on Unity Stones - Image via rhizomesnet
Beverly Buchanan – Photo of the artist working on Unity Stones – Image via rhizomes.net

From A Medical Wonder to A Full-time Artist

Beverly Buchanan was born in Fuquay, North Carolina, but spent most of her childhood in Orangeburg, South Carolina, as her father was a dean of the School of Agriculture at South Carolina State College. In 1962, Buchanan graduated from Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is, interestingly enough, a historically black women’s college. Beverly received a bachelor of science degree in medical technology. She went on to attend Columbia University where she earned a master’s degree in parasitology in 1968 and a master’s degree in public health in 1969. Although she was accepted to a medical school and everyone around her was expecting a successful career as a doctor, Buchanan decided not to pursue such a vocation in order to dedicate more time to her art which always took a back seat when compared to her medical studies. However, this was no longer the case at this point. In 1971, Beverly 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. She made a choice to become a full-time artist in 1977 after exhibiting her work in a show at Betty Parsons Gallery that featured young and upcoming American talents.

Beverly Buchanan - Sculpture House, 2012 - Image via amazonawscom
Beverly Buchanan – Sculpture House, 2012 – Image via amazonaws.com

The Art of Beverly Buchanan

In the same year she exhibited her work for the first time, Beverly Buchanan moved to Macon, Georgia. It was here that she enjoyed her initial successes as an artist – she quickly got into a rhythm of creating drawings, sculpture, prints and photos. The 1970s were marked by her black walls series as Buchanan wanted to see what the surface looked like on the other side by putting four walls together in three dimensions. This led to her initial experiences with sculpting in cement – a good example of these experimentations are three-dimensional works from Beverly’s early career, like the Ruins and Rituals piece presented in the first image of this article. What soon followed was a definite highlight of Beverly Buchanan’s career. She became renowned worldwide for her paintings and sculptures of the Shack, a rudimentary dwelling associated with the poor. The artist would use shacks as images of endurance and personal history, often using bright colors and a style of childlike simplicity, representing the faith and caring that is not reserved for privileged classes.

The art of Beverly Buchanan had the ability to evoke the warmth and happiness found even in the meanest dwellings and settings

Beverly Buchanan - Moonshine Man's House, 2009 - Image via dukeedu
Beverly Buchanan – Moonshine Man’s House, 2009 – Image via duke.edu

Leaving Behind an Amazing Career

On the 4th of July in the year of 2015, Buchanan died in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the age of seventy-four. What she left behind is a career that shook the art world to its foundations – her walls and shacks were so original that one would be hard pressed to genuinely compare this artist’s art with any other body of work her contemporary colleagues had in their arsenal. Nowadays, Beverly’s art is widely collected and can be found in several major museums, which is only yet another evidence of Buchanan’s artistic greatness. All in all, Beverly is truly one of the most prominent artists of her generation and is deservedly held in such a high regard.

References:

  1. Anonymous, 2016, Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals, Brooklyn Museum [Aug 23, 2017]
  2. Maine, S., 2016, The Political Abstractions of Beverly Buchanan, Hyperallergic [Aug 23, 2017]

Featured image: Beverly Buchanan – Photo of the artist – Image via nnamdicenter.org
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York City, NY Group
2017Beverly BuchananDavid Klein Gallery, Detroit, MI Solo
2017PowerSprüth Magers Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA Group
2017Beverly Buchanan and William ChristenberryAndrew Edlin Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2017RoomSadie Coles HQ, London Group
2016Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary ArtNasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC Group
2015Beverly Buchanan: And You May Find Yourself...Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
2014Building StoriesJohn Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI Group
2014When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American SouthMuseum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Fort LauderdaleGroup
2014Purple StatesAndrew Edlin Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2014When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American SouthThe Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, NY Group
2012African-American VoicesMuseum of Arts and Sciences, Macon, GA Group
2012African American Artists From The Flomenhaft CollectionFlomenhaft Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2011Beverly Buchanan & Lillian BladesCenter in the Square, Roanoke, WV Group
2010Beware: Women Working At Flomenhaft'sFlomenhaft Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2010The Chemistry of Color: Contemporary African-American ArtistsColumbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC Group
2010Twenty Georgia MastersMuseum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA), Atlanta, GA Group
2009Response and Memory: The Art of Beverly BuchananMorris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA Solo
2009Response and Memory: The Art of Beverly BuchananAsheville Art Museum, Asheville, NC Solo
2009Highlights from the collectionFlomenhaft Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2009African American Art and LifeFlomenhaft Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2007Color: Ten African American ArtistsTampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL Group
2007Back to the Future: Contemporary American Art from the CollectionAmherst College, Amherst, MA Group
2007A Pink Curator Chooses Black Art: What’s In a Color?Flomenhaft Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2004Discovering Community in 150 Years of ArtThe Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Group
2003A Matter of FactsNicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York City, NY Group
1997Beverly Buchanan: ShackworksMissoula Art Museum MAM, Missoula, MT Solo
1995The Collecting Impulse: Works by Max Belcher, Beverly Buchanan, and William ChristenberryCenter for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Durham, NC Group
1994Beverly Buchanan shackworks : a 16-year surveyMontclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ Solo
1990Sculptors' drawings : part 2East Hampton Center for Contemporary Art, East Hampton, NY 1990Group