In each of Vincent Valdez’s paintings from The Strangest Fruit
series, a single male figure floats on a blank background. Each perfectly rendered subject is suffused in a warm light, hovering in space without reference to the ground. The title refers to the 1937 poem “Strange Fruit” by Abel Meeropol, and the song of the same title made famous by Billie Holiday—a poignant allusion to the lynching of African Americans in the United States. Valdez draws attention to the lost history of Mexican and Mexican-American men lynched in Texas up until the 1930s. The young men depicted wear contemporary clothes but no noose, suggesting both the invisibility of this history and its continuing impact in our own time. Valdez grew up in San Antonio, where early on he demonstrated his painterly abilities while creating murals exploring socio-political subjects relevant to his Latino community. He now represents the next generation of the Chicano art movement—one born in protest and the struggle for social justice.