Claudia Bernardi

  • From Walls Of Hope Cocorna, Colombia Project
  • Jose and Ines
  • Maria Doris, Christian, Carlos Arturo, Camila, and Valentina
  • Collaborative mural

Claudia Bernardi is an internationally known artist who works in the fields of human rights and social justice and who has exhibited her work in over 40 solo exhibitions. In all of her work over the past two decades – whether as an artist through installation, sculpture, and printmaking, as an educator through teaching and lecturing, or as a participant in human rights investigations – she has impacted thousands of people with her integrity, compassion, and truthfulness. She is an artist who has witnessed monstrous atrocities and unspeakable human tragedies, yet speaks of these horrors in ways that communicate the persistence of hope, undeniable integrity, and necessary remembrance. Born in Buenos Aires, Bernardi and her younger sister lost their parents while teenagers during a highly unstable time in the history of Argentina – a time of dictatorship and extreme political unrest. “You do not have the luxury of choosing to be apolitical in Argentina,” says Bernardi. “By simply living in a dictatorship, one is politically involved and constantly at risk.” Argentines lived in perpetual fear that they personally, or someone closely related, would become a desaparecido, a disappeared citizen; 30,000 desaparecidos were documented during the so-called “Dirty War” waged by the Argentine military from 1976 to 1983. She left Argentina for the U.S. in 1979.

In 1984, a forensic anthropology team was established under the new government in Argentina to supply evidence of violations of human rights carried out against civilian populations. The team utilized the rigorous methods of traditional archaeology to examine, document, and publicly expose mass burial graves. Returning to Argentina to work in collaboration with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (AFAT) – a team that included her sister, Patricia, one of the founding members of AFAT – Bernardi learned the meticulous scientific methods of handling human remains. AFAT have conducted exhumations of mass graves all over the world and have reported their findings to the United Nations. Bernardi joined the AFAT in investigations of human rights violations in El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina, and Ethiopia. Part of Bernardi’s responsibilities included the creation of the archeological maps and transcribing the testimonies of families of the “disappeared ones.” From here, Bernardi realized the full import of how art could be used to educate, elucidate, and articulate the communal memories of survivors of human rights atrocities.

Bernardi was awarded in 2004 an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa, by the College of Wooster, Ohio. Bernardi received an MFA from the National Institute of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires and an MA and her second MFA from the University of California at Berkeley.

She has taught at the Universidad del Salvador, Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires, California College of the Arts, Mills College, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She was a California Arts Council Artist-in-Residence from 1990-1993 and 1994-1995 for the Artist in the Community project directed to the population of political refugees and survivors of torture from Latin America and was an East Bay Community Foundation Art Project Artist-in-Residence in 1993-1994.

She has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally, amongst many venues it can be highlighted: The International World Peace Center in Hiroshima, The Centre for Building Peace, Donegal, Northern Ireland; DAH Teatar in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro; The University of Haifa, Israel, the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, MACLA, Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley, Thatcher Gallery at University of San Francisco, Artist’s Forum, Palo Alto Art Center, Carl Gorman Museum at U.C. Davis, Tucson Museum and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

She was the subject of a 2000 documentary directed by Penelope Price Pasa un Angel/An Angel Passes, which screened at New York’s Margaret Mead Film Festival and at the San Francisco International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Spire Award for Best Art Film. In 2004, film director Penelope Price, created another documentary about the life and art of Claudia Bernardi called “Artists of Resistance”, which is now touring the film festivals nationally and internationally.

Bernardi is the recent recipient of a prestigious Creative Work Fund award, to support the collaboration with choreographer Kimi Okada of the ODC Dance Company to create “Flight to Ixcan,” a performance exploring personal loss in the context of the rash of political deaths occurring in Central and South America in the 1970s. Bernardi has been awarded a Potrero Nuevo Fund Grant to support her project to create an Art School/ Open Studio in Perquin, a rural community in post war El Salvador.

Bernardi is the creator and director of the School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin in Morazán, Northern El Salvador, serving children, youth, adults and the elderly. The approach of this unprecedented art initiative is rooted in the partnership created between art, artists and local institutions and NGOs. The art projects are designed and created in response to the demands, hopes and desires of the members of the community.

Bernardi is a Professor at the California College of the Arts.

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