The Women of April
The Women of April is a visual arts exhibition which was scheduled to open on April 24th 2020 at CUNY's Dominican Studies Institute at City College and has been postponed due to COVID-19 to open in September 2020 instead. Artist Lourdes Bernard's work is research base and this project showcases large and small works on paper to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the April 1965 revolution and US invasion of Dominican Republic. The art celebrates the role of The Women of April who were untrained civilian resistance fighters who fought against the 42,000 US marines ordered by LBJ to invade the small Caribbean nation. In 2017 a few months after attending the DC Women's March, Bernard was inspired to explore her family's migration journey from Dominican Republic. It was through this research that she discovered "Las Mujeres de Abril" , "The Women of April". Women’s activism today continues to be a catalyst for global transformation, very much like it was in April 1965.
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The mission of "The Women of April", Las Mujeres de Abril exhibition at CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, is threefold. First, it offers the audience an inspiring example of heroic women from all walks of life and highlights their key role in Dominican self-determination. Second, it reveals how the lessons of the Dominican April 1965 revolution are universal and relevant today. In their fight for freedom the women organized within their communities and united across ethnicity, nationality, class, and economic differences. Third, the exhibition offers a visual narrative of the impact of US foreign policy and how its military engagements are a push factor for mass displacement and migration.
This art is about remembrance and reclaims stories I did not know I carried. 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 is still with us in the form of the Dominican diaspora, now the 4th largest Latino community in the US. I began the first phase of this project by creating a visual archive of this history as a "family album" and drew directly in an old family album on pages yellowed with time. To document the authoritarian Trujillo era, I restricted the palette and used sumi ink and grey washes to emphasize the shadows and to reinforce the darkness of this history. Drawing with ink allowed me reinforce the sharp contrast between light and dark as a metaphor for this era. This first phase of the project was created as an on site drawing installation at El Museo del Barrio in summer 2017.
Drawing also allowed me to capture the energy and life force and the immediacy of the Women of April's response to an invading army. In this second phase of the project the black ink palette is abandonned for vibrant color to celebrate the thousands of women who fought. They were attorneys, journalists, artists, educators, academics, sex-workers, housewives, and students. This excavated history re-imagines their stories to convey a heroic struggle for freedom while inspiring us with their courage.
"Mujeres de Abril depicts the contribution of Dominican women with genuine sympathy and understanding, so that they do not appear in the artwork as mere victims or passive figures; instead they are ordinary human beings empowered by their own desire of protest, and as such, we can easily make a connection to them. This project presents a penetrating view of the situation lived in the Dominican Republic at that crucial moment." - Dr. Sarah Aponte, Professor/ Chief Librarian DSI
The Dominican Studies Institute is the nation's first university-based research institute devoted to the study of people of Dominican descent in the United States and other parts of the world. This exhibit is in keeping with DSI's mission to "produce and disseminate research and scholarship about Dominicans, and about Dominican Republic". Along with exhibiting "The Women of April/ Las Mujeres de Abril", the DSI is organizing special guided tours for schoolchildren, students, scholars, and the community to view and discuss the art pieces. The CUNY DSI Library is developing curriculum materials to tackle the related cultural, historical, and social issues and ideas raised by this exhibition of "innovative and pioneering art works" and can attest to the importance of having this exhibit available for schoolchildren as well as for the public.
Lourdes Bernard is a Dominican-American Artist raised in Brooklyn. A graduate of Syracuse University School of Architecture and The New York Studio School, where she studied fine arts. Exhibitions include: El Museo del Barrio, NYPL, FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn Central Library, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Boston College, The Wilmer Jennings Gallery, and The Courtyard Gallery. Bernard is the 2019 recipient of The Sendak/Glynn Narrative Illustration Fellowship at Yaddo and a Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship.
A great big Thank You to the Yaddo Corporation for supporting this project. Several images of The Women of April were created in Saratoga Springs last May 2019.
Images from left to right: 1) "La Tregua de Los Mamiferos"/ "The Truce of the Mammals", 2) La Nueva Sabor/ The New Flavor, 3) La Bata / Housecoat , 4) Gala en La Casa Blanca/ Gala in the White House , 5) FUERA
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