VINCENT VALDEZ
VINCENT VALDEZ
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

The Strangest Fruit is a series of large paintings that is inspired by the lost/erased history of lynched Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the United States from the late 1800's well into the 1930's. The title is borrowed from the poem Strange Fruit (Abel Meripool) that was made famous by Billie Holiday’s recording in the 1930's. The poem/song lyrics present haunting visuals of black Americans, using the metaphor of “strange fruit” to describe the victims who were hanged from trees. 

I adapted the lyrics and slightly altered the text to describe a Texas landscape, which sprouts "brown bodies” instead of "black bodies.” The title, The Strangest Fruit, suggests that this sinister portion of American history goes much further than we have been told. The subject of Latino lynchings is almost entirely unknown, unheard of, and unspoken in the United States.

Although this subject is inspired by a specific history, my focus was to identify and create images that speak of the present. These paintings depict distorted bodies of contemporary young males, distinguished by characteristics such as their clothing, hairstyles, skin color, sneakers and age. All of these specific "markers" can lead to an hysteria, targets and stereotypes.

Presenting this historical subject in a contemporary context enables me to present the noose as metaphor and suggest that the threat of the noose still looms. The noose has been disguised and resold to the American public as mass incarceration and for-profit prison industries, the endless American drug war, the war on terror, the military industrial complex, the criminalization of poverty, broken educational systems and biased justice systems, stop and frisk programs and racial profiling, mass deportation and nationalism, police brutality, all of which lend themselves to a fearful and forgetful America.

Like the erased bodies of the past, these paintings depict present-day individuals who face the threat of a similar fate in America, the more that they struggle to break free, the tighter the noose will choke.
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