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Lourdes Bernard: The Women of April
It begins when the first bombs were fallen on our home. American foreign policy is the beginning of American citizenship for so many of us. – Ocean Vuong
The New York Studio School presents The Women of April, a research-based group of works on paper by Lourdes Bernard that commemorate the 57th anniversary of the April 1965 revolution and US invasion of the Dominican Republic, on view March 14 – April 10, 2022.
The narrative images celebrate and highlight the role of “The Women of April,” untrained civilian resistance fighters who fought against the 42,000 US Marines ordered by LBJ to invade the small Caribbean nation. In 2017, shortly after attending the DC Women’s March and as the previous administration rolled out controversial immigration policies, artist Lourdes Bernard began to research her family’s migration journey from the Dominican Republic in 1965. It was through this research that she discovered “Las Mujeres de Abril” (“The Women of April”), and learned of the US invasion that displaced thousands of Dominicans, including her family. The Women of April were attorneys, journalists, artists, teachers, academics, housewives, and students. Bernard excavates this hidden history through her work, re-imagining their stories and struggle for freedom.
The research became a three-part Dominican Migration series, speaking directly to the issues of American militarism and Dominican resistance that were specific to April 1965. Yet the artwork moves beyond Bernard’s personal story, engaging in contemporary questions about the impact of US foreign policy and the cost of displacement, immigration, and imperialism, as well as the heroic power of the collective. The depictions, created with bold outlines and blocks of washy color in watercolor, acrylic flash paint, and pen and ink on paper, invite the audience to engage with this history so it no longer lives only in the memory of those who lived it. “This art is about remembrance and reclaims stories I did not know I carried,” the artist explains. “Memories offer us a basis for meaning and integration. Remembrance is a path to discovery, and I learned that the aftershock of the US invasion in April 1965 is still with us in the form of the Dominican diaspora, now the fourth largest Latino community in the US.”
As honed down as Bernard’s drawings are, the specificity of physiognomies, poses, body language, demeanor, age, and apparel, and the brilliantly selected details of these portraits, which is what these pictures ultimately are, transmit with enormous precision readily recognizable types and individuals. Moreover, the images have been made more compelling and captivating through the acuity of Bernard’s adroit graphism: she knows how to draw. Her seemingly rapid sketches precisely transmit a pose, an expression, a scene, the dress, the gestures, the props—and draws the viewer as well into the world she depicts. – Aimée Brown Price, 2020
Lourdes Bernard is a Dominican-American artist raised in Brooklyn, a graduate of Syracuse University School of Architecture and The New York Studio School. Her work has been exhibited in El Museo del Barrio, the New York Public Library, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Boston College, The Wilmer Jennings Gallery, and Five Myles Gallery. She is also the recipient of a Yaddo Foundation Fellowship and a Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship.
This exhibition is made possible by a fiscal sponsorship with the New York Foundation for the Arts.
“The Women of April” is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).
The Women of April: An Interview with Lourdes Bernard, By Alex Santana, The Latinx Project, March 29, 2022
This exhibition video was made in collaboration with Lourdes Bernard and video artist Sandra Stephens who filmed the exhibition and edited the video.