“Being a mom turned me into an octopus,” says artist Lili Bernard who is the mother of five boys and one girl ranging in age from nine years old though college. “I am known for having my kids with me at my art shows.”
Bernard’s work is colorful and deeply emotional. It reflects the many themes she explores in her art and life from motherhood to racism and sexism. She is the founder of BAILA (Black Artists in Los Angeles, an organized group that she formed to advocate to advance the careers of black artists.
Bernard believes all six of her children inherited art making abilities from her, as she feels she did from her dad and grandfather. Her son Isaiah Ferguson is an animator had been getting attention for his animated films including being invited to meet President Obama at the White House Student Film Festival. “His work is so beautiful. I am so proud of him. All of my children are my best teachers. They are mirrors. My kids’ art is so pure and whole,” says Bernard.
Visions of pregnant women are a frequent motif in Bernard’s work. “What I am trying to show in my paintings of pregnant women is that being pregnant is not a handicap, it is just a different state of being where you can be just as prolific and powerful and industrious. I have known many women who work right up to giving birth,” says Bernard.
Bernard’s kids are also known to help in the studio and inspire their prolific mother. “My kids help me make my art. Help me glue things down when I am making mixed media pieces,” says Bernard. “They are also my best critics. They have a great eye and give me honest straight from the hip responses.”
At her recent exhibition, “Antebellum Appropriations” at MoAD in San Francisco, Bernard showed her detailed muralistic visions that re-imagined classical European paintings into slave narratives. “I believe that part of the reason why I am such a prolific artist is because of my children,” says Bernard. “They inspire me towards creativity. I also want to leave a legacy behind so that when I pass, they will have a good collection of my work to make some money.”
Giving birth six times has deepened Bernard’s commitment to living life with a feminist perspective. “I have always viewed pregnancy and childbirth as one of the most feminist expressions,” says Bernard. “You are bringing into this world, life. You have the opportunity through the rearing of your children to raise feminists, even a greater accomplishment when your child is a male.”