Chilean Painter Attempts to Mend the Past Through Art

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IN one painting, a man juts his chin up and out, a dotted line cutting across his Adam's apple. In the background is a map of Santiago, with infamous detention centers of Chile's military regime highlighted. In another, a torture victim modestly pulls up his T-shirt to reveal a scarred back. And in one side of a moving diptych, a young man hurries across a bridge, looking back anxiously over his shoulder. These are the works of Chilean artist Maximo Pincheira, whose father died along with former Chilean President Salvador Allende Gossens in the 1973 military coup bombing of Santiago's Moneda Palace. These paintings are on display in a gallery in the Bank of Chile. Today the young artist sees his latest pictures as therapy for someone wanting to look beyond a painful past. But he also wants them to speak broadly enough of human conditions so that others with different experiences can see something in them as well. ''I wanted these paintings to speak of our anxieties, but I did not want them to be seen as blatantly political or too personal,'' he says. ''Our past is very painful for many Chileans, but now we are in a more objective period, so I wanted pictures ambiguous enough to suggest everyday human emotions.'' Works like Mr. Pincheira's are playing a small but important role in Chileans' gradual reconciliation with their past. Like Picasso's Guernica, which treats the bombing of a Basque village in the Spanish civil war, these paintings, sculptures, poems, movies, songs, and monuments give people something to hold to and focus on as they come to terms with the past. Just as the United States has its Vietnam Memorial, Chile has its monument to those who died or were 'disappeared' during the dictatorship years, with the names of 1,311 executed prisoners and 1,024 disappeared. Located in Santiago's General Cemetery, the granite monument serves as a reminder and a kind of national wall of mourning. ''Maybe there can never be justice for the families of these people,'' says Santiagan Teresa Cardenas, referring to the victims as she passed before the monument recently. ''But at least something like this in our presence can cause us to pause and think - and maybe help us move on together.''

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