Claudia Bernardi
Galleria Coqui, Seattle
April 3 to 27

The Intricate Machine of Untruth (1996)
fresco on paper

BUENOS AIRES-reared, Berkeley, California-based Claudia Bernardi's 40-year life seems inextricably linked to the tumultuous civil strife, dirty little wars and de facto genocide endemic to parts of Central and South America, beginning with her own generation's desaparecidos (disappeared ones). While Bernardi worked toward higher education in Fine Arts, her sister, Patricia, helped establish the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, which investigated domestic mass gravesites and has since worked in El Salvador, Ethiopia and Guatemala.

In October, 1992, Bernardi joined her sister as an assistant at the El Mozote massacre site in El Salvador, located in a district where over one thousand men, women and children were murdered 11 years earlier by the Atlactacl Battalion, a U.S. trained counter-insurgency force.

The profoundly transformative experience of sifting methodically through layers of horrific evidence, produced in Bernardi an epiphany of unusual logic in which the perpetrators of such crimes are truly dead and their victims represent a resurrected, inviolable grace and dignity.

Rather than mount graphic accusations and diatribes toward unconvicted war criminals, Bernardi presses layer upon layer of vivid pigments into wet paper (reminiscent of Mark Rothko's despairing mindscapes) then brushes, scrapes (as in archeological disinterment) and incises the recombined, wondrously intricate anatomies of the innocent and anonymous, back from the void into a state of indelible identity. If, in his time, Goya depicted the horrors of political terror, Bernardi performs the pietàs for this century's seemingly endless victims of random malevolence.

©Ted Lindberg