Below are the lyrics from the song "Strange Fruit" followed by artworks I created inspired from the song. The first piece was the first of a new series I started in November 2009. The series consists of freehand burned images into newspaper articles. Each piece is created by slightly burning newspaper until it browns certain areas to reveal an image.
The subject of "Strange Fruit" is based on an anti-lynching poem by Abel Meeropol that was later adapted into a famous song, "Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday. One of the stanzas in the song reads, "strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees," which is meant to represent the lynchings that had been occurring in America throughout the 20th century. Knowing and understanding the injustice behind the civil rights murders haunted me enough to create a visual depiction of these specific lynchings.
My pieces is a visual representation of the oppressed. If you look at the top image, first, you will notice that the overall shape of the piece is similar to that of an oddly shaped fruit hanging from above by chains and a noose. Second, you may notice that I burned these images into an article from the New York Times about abolitionist John Brown. Third, you may find faces within the burning which are meant to depict the agony of injustice, as a way to remember the atrocities that occurred. And lastly, amidst the burning you will find the face of the victim, Mack Charles Parker, who was lynched in 1959 without anyone ever being arrested for his murder.
Blood on the leaves
Blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
The scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
for the rain to gather
for the wind to suck
for the sun to rot
for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop