News Releases
California State University, Sacramento

Posted: August 24, 1999

Art Exhibit Honors Genocide Victims

Claudia Bernardi - an Argentine activist and Bay Area artist whose work honors and recalls the lives of those killed in massacres - will show a collection of her frescos on paper at California State University, Sacramento's Robert Else Gallery Wednesday, Sept. 8 through Friday, Oct. 8.

The exhibit, "Making Tender the Dust/ Haciendo Tierno el Polvo," will be accompanied by two special events in September.

Bernardi will talk about her work with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology team in Guatemala, El Salvador and Argentina, following a 5:30 p.m. reception on Saturday, Sept. 18 in Kadema Hall 145. Her work in those countries directly influenced both the subject and technique of her art.

The lecture will be followed by a panel discussion on "Speaking for the People: Art and Politics in the Americas," which will feature CSUS faculty and staff members Ricardo Favela, Jeanie Keltner, Elaine O'Brien, Leonard Valdez and Angus Wright. They will discuss the role of art in depicting political suppression, massacres and genocide around the world.

Poets will respond to Bernardi's work in both English and Spanish at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 25 in the Else Gallery. Retired CSUS art professor Jose Montoya will read with members of the group Los Escritores Del Nuevo Sol (Writers of the New Sun), including Francisco X. Alarcon, Phil Goldvarg, Joe Montoya and Graciela B. Ramirez.

As recent atrocities in Kosovo and elsewhere show, the mass killings that have marked this century may well continue into the next. The upcoming CSUS exhibit and accompanying events will provide a chance to confront this fact of the modern world.

Bernardi, a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, moved to the Bay Area two decades ago. She moved in part to escape the political violence of Argentina's "Dirty War," in which Argentine leaders "disappeared" thousands of the country's citizens. R
Years later, Bernardi returned to her homeland to help investigate human rights abuses by the former government. Working with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Unit, which was led by her sister, Bernardi helped exhume numerous mass graves.

At each site, Bernardi recalls an almost overwhelming sense of tenderness toward the victims.

Bernardi creates her intensely colored work by sifting as many as 70 layers of pure pigment directly on to wet paper. She then brushes and scrapes colors away, much like in an exhumation, leaving ghost-like forms and outlines. The resulting work celebrates the victims' lives and honors the communal memories of survivors.

"Her work is very beautiful, and yet it is about the most horrible subject - state-sponsored genocide," says Elaine O'Brien, the CSUS art professor who organized Bernardi's show at CSUS. "It is art intrinsically connected with life. Rather than offer an escape, Bernardi asks us to care."

Bernardi earned master of fine arts degrees at both the University of California, Berkeley and the National Institute of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires. She now teaches at Mills College and the San Francisco Art Institute.

The CSUS exhibit and events are free and open to the public. Exhibit hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment.

More information is available at (916) 278-6156.


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