Artist Statement

LiliBernardHeadShot2012LILI BERNARD ARTIST STATEMENT

My work exposes the post-colonial paradigm of suffering and resilience, through a collision of cruelty against compassion. The generational struggle of my Afro-Cuban immigrant family and Caribbean ancestors, coupled with my personal experiences as a rape survivor, informs my exploration of the impact of trauma and the unconquerable nature of the human spirit.

Antebellum Appropriations is a series of large oil paintings on canvas in which I alter iconic classical European paintings and turn them into slave narratives.  Richly codified with imagery of Afro-Caribbean folklore and religious iconography, the paintings are centered on the generational exploitation of Black women, relating to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The work reaches beyond an aesthetic exploration of trauma as it pertains to racism and feminism. It critically examines a void that exists within the halls of art history: the failure to archive the important role which the abominable institution of slavery played, across the African Diaspora, in sustaining the lifestyle of the subjects who grace the ubiquitous classical European canvases.

BC Trauma Bond: As in Before Christ There Were Demons and They’ve Persisted in Heavenly Places is my multimedia artwork relating to the trauma I’ve experienced as a public-figure rape survivor whose perpetrator is a powerful, once beloved American father-figure icon.

Ain’t Funny is a multimedia project inspired by Frantz Fanon’s book, Black Skin, White Masks, wherein I use sculpture, video and photography to explore emotional trauma inflicted upon Black people through derogatory stereotyping, Eurocentricity and racial discrimination and violence. The work is codified with symbolism pertaining to the Afro-Cuban syncretic religion called, “Palo.”

Donning and Dismissal of the Conqueror’s Coiffure is an installation and public-engagement, performance art project which explores the psyche and self-perception of the colonized Black woman. Informed by trauma I’ve endured relating to my African-textured hair, the work raises awareness of the pervasive subconscious association of Blackness with wrongness, evidenced in commonplace expressions such as “good hair” versus “bad hair.”  The performance ritualistically incorporates tropes of the Afro-Cuban religion known as Santeria. Hair salons double as altars.

Silent No More is an art workshop with discussion, operating as a creative vehicle of support and empowerment that encourages participants to use their voices in order to combat rape culture. Whether they are survivors, bystanders or advocates of sexual assault victims; participants experience the personal and therapeutic impact of speaking out against sexual violence.

BAILA: Black Artists in Los Angeles is an ongoing educational networking art movement that I founded in 2011, with the focus of helping to advance the careers of Black visual artists in the L.A. area.  My work for BAILA is volunteer and has involved teaching, research, curating, writing, archiving, and the organizing and facilitating of roundtable discussions between BAILA and mainstream art institutions, including Museum of Contemporary Art, The Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Hammer Museum UCLA, California African American Museum, and Otis College of Art & Design, among several others.