Artist Statement

LiliBernardHeadShot2012My 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.

CURRENT PROJECTS

  • 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. These paintings are a way for me to therapeutically express the sexual trauma and accompanying enslavement I personally endured as a young adult, by disguising myself in the stories of my ancestors.  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 figures who grace the ubiquitous, classical European canvases. By “flipping the script,” I shine the light of historical recognition upon these unsung enslaved heroines and heroes, whose lives of horror and resistance were overshadowed by serene scenes painted of their subjugators.
  • Ain’t Funny is a multi-media project inspired by Frantz Fanon’s book, Black Skin, White Masks, wherein I incorporate sculpture, video, photography to explore the emotional trauma inflicted upon Black people through derogatory stereotyping and Eurocentricity.
  • 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 the trauma I’ve endured relating to my African-textured hair, the work raises awareness of the pervasive subconscious association of blackness with wrongness, as evidenced in commonplace expressions such as “good hair” versus “bad hair.”  Such dilemma is the root of the trauma we Black women have experienced with relation to our hair.  The examination of these learned subconscious feelings of inadequacy, reflected in hairstyle, speaks to a larger audience. It creates conversation about the collective unconscious dependency born out of colonialism. The performance ritualistically incorporates the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, which arose from the syncretism of Catholicism and the Yoruba religion known as Ifá. The Orishas (African deities) and the Catholic Saints (with which they are syncretized) are represented by the performers and in the installation which contains altars that double as hair salons.
  • Orishas Through the Crossroads and the Gate is an installation and performance project, involving public engagement and an art workshop. The project incorporates the popular childhood game of Four Squares, stylized in a theme of Afro-Caribbean folklore and religion. It metaphorically explores the impact of Criolization as it pertains to privilege, access, boundaries and transcendence
  • Silent No More involves an artist talk by me, the creation of a functional art object, and a group exercise and discussion. The workshop is 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; through the use of metaphor, participants experience the personal and therapeutic impact of speaking out against sexual violence.
  • BAILA is an acronym for Black Artists in Los Angeles.  BAILA exists as a perpetual social practice art project.  We are an organized group of visual artists and friends who function pedagogically and professionally as a family. BAILA performs as an educational networking art movement, orchestrated to illuminate the work and advance the careers of Black visual artists in the L.A. area. BAILA’s ultimate goal is to serve as a catalyst in the erasure of the gross marginalization of Black visual artists across the nation. My work for BAILA, as the founder and organizer, involves research, the facilitating of roundtables between BAILA and mainstream arts organizations, the curating of BAILA exhibitions, the hosting of art critiques and studio visits, the mentoring of BAILA adults and youth, and the archiving and publishing of BAILA happenings.  Art Organizations participating in BAILA roundtables have included The Getty Museum and the Getty research Institute, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Hammer Museum UCLA, California African American Museum, Watts Towers Arts Center Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Otis College of Art and Design, Golden State Mutual Legacy Foundation, Karen Atkinson’s Getting Your Sh*t Together (GYST), and art critic-gallery owner Mat Gleason.
  • Addressing the Dearth is a project in which I critically investigate and creatively challenging the dearth and systematic omission of women artists of color in faculty positions at art institutions, as well as in representation by art galleries, museums and publications.