Argentine artist Claudia Bernardi has held the tiny bones in her hands. She has embraced the sole survivor who watched as her family and everyone she knew was killed in the massacre at El Mozote, El Salvador, during a brutal civil war. Bernardi has done her best to translate that emotion into works of art and reconstruction of spirit. She was recently at Mary Baldwin to share her journey with the college and visitors as the 2006–07 Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Doenges Artist.
Bernardi returned from her most recent trip to El Mozote and the art school, Walls of Hope, she established for children in that village just in time for her appearance September 19 at Mary Baldwin. Bernardi was the subject of a 2000 documentary directed by Penelope Price,Pasa un Angel/An Angel Passes, which won the Golden Spire Award for Best Art Film at the San Francisco International Film Festival. In 2004 Price created another documentary about the life and work of Bernardi,Artist of Resistance. This film was shown at a public viewing on campus, and both Bernardi and Price were present for a question and answer session. Bernardi will be welcomed back to Mary Baldwin during May Term to teach an intensive course and interact further with the college and community.
“All that I have done in 30 years as an artist, everything I believe art can do, inspired me to act and develop and implement art programs in communities like this,” Bernardi wrote during her summer work at the site. “The most persistent militancy I have performed as an activist and the most tender poetic aspects of my own artwork come together as a reaffirmation when painting this mural at El Mozote.”
When she is not working at El Mozote, Bernardi lives and works in Berkeley, California, teaching at California College of the Arts and San Francisco Art Institute, among others. Since 1985 Bernardi has exhibited her work in over 40 solo exhibitions at a variety of international venues: The International World Peace Center in Hiroshima; The Center for Building Peace, Donegal, Northern Ireland; DAH Teater in Belgrade, Serbia, and Montenegro; the University of Haifa, Israel; The Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona; The Carl Gorman Museum at University of California at Davis; and others. She received an MFA from the National Institute of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires , and an MA and second MFA from the University of California at Berkeley. In 2004 Bernardi was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts by the College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio. She has also taught at the Universidad del Salvador; Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires; Mills College; and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Find out more about Bernardi and the Doenges Lecture Series at https://go.marybaldwin.edu/lectures/.
Image 1: A young boy peeks around a mural painting at Walls of Hope school in El Salvador. Image courtesy Mark Barger at Walls of Hope foundation.
Image 2: A fresco painting/print by Claudia Bernardi inspired by the exhumation at El Mozote. Image courtesy Mark Barger at Walls of Hope foundation.