Claudia Bernardi is an internationally known artist who works in the fields of art, human rights and social justice. In her work over the past two decades –she has combined installation, sculpture, painting, printmaking, and most recently, she has focused her art praxis in community and collaborative art projects working with/ and in collaboration with communities that have suffered state terror, violence and who are victims of human rights violations.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bernardi lived through the Argentine military junta that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983. As a result of this system of repression over 30,000 Argentine citizens disappeared. The desaparecidos are the victims of the so-called “Dirty War”. She left Argentina 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.
In 2004, Bernardi was awarded 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, San Francisco Art Institute, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She was a California Arts Council Artist-in-Residence from 1990-1993 to 2004 in an Artist in Community project directed to the population of political refugees and survivors of torture from Latin America.
She has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally, amongst the many venues it can be highlighted: The International World Peace Center in Hiroshima, The Centre for Building Peace, Donegal, Northern Ireland, The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Sonoma Museum of Contemporary Art, The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, The Tokushima Modern Art Museum, The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
DAH Teatar in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro; The University of Haifa, Israel, MACLA, Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley, Carl Gorman Museum at U.C. Davis, Tucson Museum of 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 recipient of a Creative Work Fund award, collaborating 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 is the creator and director of the School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin in Morazán, El Salvador, serving children, youth, adults and the elderly. The approach of this unprecedented art, education and human rights 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. This model of education and community building through art has been implanted in Colombia, Guatemala, Canada and Argentina.
Some of the international collaborative and community-based projects are:
2011 “Through the Eyes of Our Children”
Mural created by Catholic and Protestant Children on the Ardoyne Road
Holy Cross Primary School and Wheatfield Primary School
Belfast, Northern Ireland.
2011 “Women Leadership and Development Projects”, Mural painted by Women from ACMM, Asociación de Mujeres del Norte de Morazán/ Association of Women from the North of Morazan”, Perquin, El Salvador.
2011 “Reclaiming Our Environment”, Mural Project with youth and children from Arambala, Morazán, El Salvador.
2010, “Panzos Remembers” Mural Project created by 75 Q’eqchi’, men, women and youth survivors of the massacre of Panzos, Alta Verapaz , Guatemala
2009, “Half of Myself”, Mural Project created by AVVIC, Asociación de Victimas de Violencia de Cocorná, survivors of violence and forced displacement in Corcorná, Antioquia, Colombia
2009, “Shaping Our History violence during the armed conflict in”, Sculpture project with Indigenous Women survivors of sexual slavery, Cobán , Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.
2009 “The Arduous Journey Towards Justice”
Mural project with survivors of massacres in Guatemala, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz
2008, “Urgent Voices” Mural project created with Indigenous Women survivors of Sexual Violence during the Guatemalan war. Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
2008, “Walls of Hope-CANADA, International Journey of Transformation Through Art” Collaborative and community based Youth Project, created in partnership with Julie Jarvis , Phoenix Community Works Foundation, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Sketch and The Canada Council for the Arts, Toronto, Canada.
2008 Tapestry of History, Mural Project created with participation of indigenous survivors of violations of human rights and psychosocial workers from ECAP, Equipo Comunitario de Acción Psicosocial/ Psychosocial Community Team. Guatemala City, Guatemala
2007 The Brush is Like a Candle, It has Light on One End, Mural Project created with participation of survivors of massacres and indigenous survivors of violations of human rights, ECAP, “First International Conference on Psychosocial Work in Exhumation Process, Forced Disappearances, Justice and Truth” Antigua, Guatemala
2005-2012 Walls of Hope, School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin Morazan, El Salvador
Creation, direction and implementation of art in community projects involving children, youth, adults and the elderly of Perquin and regions of the North of Morazán.
Bernardi is Professor of Community Arts at the California College of the Arts, Artists in Residence at Mary Baldwin College, in Virginia, and she is the Founder and Director of the School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin, El Salvador.
(Please, visit www.wallsofhope.org)