Chilean artist living in Bridgeport shares story of finding his love of art during Pinochet's dictatorship

Carlos Bautista Biernnay was born during the Pinochet dictatorship in 1973 and raised by a group of women who created a safe haven for him.

Nicole Alarcon Soares and Sara Gibek

Mar 9, 2024, 6:25 PM

Updated 41 days ago


A Chilean artist living in Bridgeport for over 20 years shared his story of perseverance during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.
Carlos Bautista Biernnay grew up in a time of darkness where art was his only escape.
He was born during the Pinochet dictatorship in 1973 and raised by women who created a safe haven for him.
Although Bautista Biernnay’s memory betrays him, two things are instilled in his mind from that time - the violence and stigma he felt.

“Being a man and doing that [art] was an act of rebellion, 100%, It was going against that absurd patriarchy.”

At that time, knitting and crocheting were labors reserved only for women. But his rebellious nature saw the skills as a defying means of art.
He vividly recalls watching his mother and grandmother make clothing and household items.
“I continued with what they started and took it to a level where you really see it as art, until this day, I say they were artists, but they don’t know,” said Bautista Biernnay.
When his brother invited him back to his childhood home, he felt something he never felt before.
“'Calambre’ we call it in Spanish, when your body moves. I realized my connection was with them completely,” said Bautista Biernnay.
Biernnay found blankets and knitted textiles from his mother and grandmother, which inspired his biggest art installation.

"The installation I created is called 'Chaos.' It’s 500-square-feet, and I feel like you’re entering my mind.”

The breathtaking installation tells his story, fears and dreams.
“I always dream that I don’t touch the floor ever, but I feel like everything is wet, and I can see my breath,” Bautista Biernnay said. “So maybe you don’t feel comfortable when you see my work, but for me, that’s fine, too, because I moved you.”
Bautista Biernnay says his purpose as an artist is to generate meaning to his memories by rescuing them.
“Being an artist is like jumping in the pool with no water. It’s a real thing when you’re an artist, you never know what will happen with you today, you will never know what will happen to you tomorrow,” he said. “But there’s something so strong for me, it’s impossible to think about my life without art.”
A pop-up gallery with his art will be displayed at the former Jean Jacobs Gallery in New Canaan until mid-April.

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