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Lili Bernard with Marti Maceo
Maceo y Martí: La Mejorana, 2017.
Oil on Canvas, 28″ x 44″

Lili Bernard

LILI BERNARD is a Cuban-born, Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary artist of mixed African, Caribbean, European and Chinese descent. Her work examines issues of sexism, racism and trauma. A mother of six whom she birthed in a ten-year span, Lili is an award-winning exhibiting fine artist, actor, published writer, independent curator, educator, community organizer, public speaker and founder of BAILA: Black Artists in Los Angeles. Raised predominantly in Princeton, Jct., New Jersey, and a graduate of The American School in Japan where she spent 11th and 12th grade, Lili attended Cornell University and The City University of New York, earning a B.A. in German. She received her MFA in Visual Arts/Public Practice from Otis College of Art and Design.

In the fine arts, Lili’s numerous credits include a 2017 solo exhibition at Museum of African Diaspora and favorable reviews in a multitude of mainstream art periodicals, including ARTnews Magazine. As an actor who has performed extensively in NYC Off-Broadway theatre, on television Lili starred in the BBC film Murder in Oakland, co-starred in Stephen King’s Golden Years, and guest-starred on Seinfeld and The Cosby Show. A Cosby survivor-turned public-figure antirape activist, Lili influenced the abolishment of the statute of limitations on rape prosecution in California with her #EndRapeSOL peers, as well as the gubernatorial signing of three #MeToo bills on employment sexual harassment and assault. Currently, she serves as co-chair of #ERAnow.



Carlota Leading
Lili Bernard. Carlota Leading the People
(after Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, 1830), 2011. Oil on Canvas, 60″x72″
Viva La Vulva Panel hosted at Pembroke Taparelli Art and Film Festival 2018  12/3/2018 Viva la Vulva, Youtube: "Women of color in the U.S. are resilient in a number of respects, yet they continue to face more health challenges than white and asian women. Ever wonder why African American and Hispanic women have poorer health outcomes compared to White women, especially in the area of pregnancy and birth? What is female sexual dysfunction and how does bringing together the art and medical community provide an answer." [Includes AfroCuban painter and actress, Lili Bernard.]

Viva la Vulva - Group Show at REN Gallery  3/15/2018 Artillery Mag: "Sounding heavy, presented by artists Leslie Reed, Lili Bernard, Joanna Cassidy, Edvarda Braanaas, Tanya Ragir, Karen Petty, Aurélia Bizouard and Amanda Sage honored physiological processes women experience, the mythological narratives that capture histories and the ineviablity of physical and emotional decay. We were greeted with the feminine spirit at the gallery entrance by Bernard with her live painting, Ochun as My Bisabuela Clemencia Falls to Her Death, portraying indigenous Afro-Cuban folklore of the deity Oshun."

Lili Bernard. Carlota Slaying the Slaver (after Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1612), 2017. Oil on Canvas, 60?x72?  2/1/2018 Lili Bernard, Facebook: "This fourth work in my Antebellum Appropriation series is inspired by Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holorfernes (1612), which is considered to be one of the first European feminist paintings and a protest of the artist’s own raping. Gentileschi’s painting becomes Carlota Slaying the Slaver which imagines the plot that Carlota carefully executes in which she kills her slaver. In my imagined rendition of this real-life female-led slave revolt; Fermina pins the slaver down as Carlota decapitates him while he rapes another enslaved woman. In order to render the slaver submissive, so that Carlota can swiftly decapitate him, the enslaved rape victim threatens castration with a machete when the slaver is at his most vulnerable state: at the point of ejaculation. The bearded female warrior Orisha, Oya-Yansa, who wields fire and tornadoes, intercedes by providing light and subduing the slaver’s wife with her commanding presence."

‘Lili Bernard: Antebellum Appropriations’ at MoAD, San Francisco  6/14/2017 Blouin Artinfo: "Through large-scale oil paintings, Lili Bernard reconfigures the art historical canon by turning classical European paintings into slave narratives in her series, ‘Antebellum Appropriations’. Bernard’s work exposes the post-colonial paradigm of suffering and resilience, through a collision of cruelty against compassion. The generational struggle of her Afro-Cuban immigrant family and Caribbean ancestors, coupled with her personal experiences as a rape survivor, informs Bernard’s visual exploration of the impact of trauma and the unconquerable nature of the human spirit."

Sweet Sticky Things - Narrative Painting as the Voice of Black Women  4/14/2017 Huff Post: "Lili Bernard infuses a STICKY combination of spirituality and satire into her offerings here (full disclosure: I have curated this artist into commerical shows). She is known widely for her paintings of Orishas, the saint-like pre-Christian gods worshipped in the Caribbean by African slaves. She expands on that theme with inventive sculptural altars to hair salons as well as a satirical advertisement for Orishas as natural hair products. But her calling card will always be her fantastic oils and she does not disappoint. This artist paints the battle for souls as a pictorial wrestling between a dragon and a saint in one picture. But the most moving image in the show is her portrait of Latasha Harlins as an Orisha. At the top of her halo is her name and the artist has lettered in “Say Her Name” at the bottom. Harlins was murdered by a convenience store cashier in 1991. In this painting she holds the bottle of orange juice the cashier insisted she was stealing."

L.A. Habitat: Lili Bernard  7/8/2016 Art News: "A recurring motif in her work is the Ceiba tree. “In Cuba, as well as in parts of Africa, Asia, and other parts of Latin America, the Ceiba tree is considered to be a sacred tree,” she said. “Since my artwork is heavily codified with Afro-Cuban religious iconography and folklore, I infuse my paintings, sculptures, photography and video art with images of the Ceiba tree and her flowers.” Because of L.A.’s sunny, warm, stable climate, ceiba trees thrive in the area, even during droughts, because their roots are deep enough to reach subterranean waters."

¡Arriba, Lilí!  2/13/2016 Cubarte: "En algunas viejas grabaciones de placas de acetato de 78 RPM donde aparece el Conjunto de Arsenio Rodríguez, se escucha una voz que exclama “¡Arriba, Lilí!...” Es la de su director, el llamado “cieguito maravilloso”, que invita al pianista Lilí Martínez a que comience a realizar sus maravillosas improvisaciones en el piano. Son tres los grandes pianistas que gozan de reconocida fama por destacarse en la ejecución del piano en el Son: Pepesito Reyes, que precisamente este año está cumpliendo el centenario de su natalicio, Rubén González y Luis Martínez Griñán “Lilí”."

Carlota: Heroine of Cuba  11/5/2015 Kentake Page: “There was a militarily gifted and exceptionally daring woman in the front line: Carlota, of Lucumbi origin…”

Carlota  9/6/2015 The Female Soldier: by Liii Bernard - "Kidnapped by slavers as child, Carlota was brought from West Africa to the Matanzas province of Cuba. There she worked as a slave harvesting sugar cane on the Triumvirato sugar plantation. In response to the appalling work conditions and brutal treatment by the Spanish landlords, Carlota began to plan an uprising along with another slave woman named Fermina. However Fermina's role in the planning was discovered by the Spanish, who had her severely beaten and imprisoned. Despite this Carlota continued to organise the uprising. Known for both her intelligence and musical skill, she sent coded messages using talking drums to coordinate a series of attacks."

A veces, somos olvidadizos  8/20/2015 Cubarte: Músico guantanamero Luis Lilí Martínez Griñán (1915-1990). - "En 1945 se incorpora nada menos que al conjunto de Arsenio Rodríguez. Sus solos de piano marcan la trayectoria de esa agrupación, también beneficiada por sus brillantes arreglos. A finales de los 40 del pasado siglo, El Ciego Maravilloso parte hacia Estados Unidos, pero Lilí opta por quedarse en territorio patrio y con sus compañeros funda el conjunto capitaneado por el trompetista Félix Chappotín. Hombre con oído de amplio espectro, lo mismo se inspiró en el nengón y el changüí, que en Gershwin, o en el jazz, o en la música clásica. Alguna vez confesó que siempre quiso ser como Chopin: “Tierno frente a la música, dulce frente al piano y romántico ante la vida”."

Lili Bernard: Fighting Trauma With Art  3/30/2015 KCET: "The altar is part of a bigger series called "Donning and Dismissal of the Conqueror's Coiffure." When presented in full, there are multiple altars that bring together Afro-Cuban religious traditions with elements of the hair salon. The series also includes a performance piece, where women wet their hair -- "like a Baptism," Bernard explains -- to reveal their natural curls."

Ain't Funny by Lili Bernard  5/16/2014 Lili Bernard, Youtube: "The trope of this videoart piece is the syncretism, resulting from colonialism, of the African religion known as Palo in Cuba (referenced by the Congolese Nkisi-like nail fetish watermelon and whitened face) and Catholicism (referenced by the Passion of Christ and the tabernacle). The work is dedicated to two women who were lynched along with their children."


Lili Bernard and Caroline
Lili Bernard. With detail from Caroline
(after Édouard Manet’s Olympia, 1863), 2012

Colonialism: The Collective Unconscious, curated by visual artist LILI BERNARD for the William Grant Still Arts Center, Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, CA, October 8 2011 – November 19, 2011.


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