One artist who addresses his Latino identity is San Antonio based artist, Vincent Valdez. His portraits address stereotypes of brown males, specifically of young minorities. Valdez is a third-generation American born of distant Mexican and Spanish descent and in some ways does not identify as “Chicano” or “Hispanic” (Dazal, interview). Yet, in his series The Strangest Fruit, he depicts the distorted bodies of men of color, distinguished by their clothing, hairstyles, skin color, and more. Similar to my series #WhatLatinosLookLike, Valdez uses visual markers that tend to lead to misconceptions and stereotypes of young minority males in American society. In the painting, Untitled, from the Strangest Fruit, the body appears to dangle or float on the canvas. I could interpret the body as having been lynched, which is what the series addresses: the unknown and unrecognized history of lynching of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the United States. As Valdez states: “Presenting this historical subject in a contemporary context enables me to present the noose as a metaphor and to suggest that the threat of the noose still looms over the heads of the young Latino male in American society” (Dazal, interview). Unlike the subjects in my series #WhatLatinoLookLike, who proudly identify as Latino, Valdez does not identify as Chicano or Latino, yet his Mexican heritage informs his artistic expression.
|Vincent Valdez Untitled, from The Strangest Fruit, Oil on canvas, 55" x 92”, 2013|