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Strange Fruit

1992-1997
Zoe Leonard, (American, born 1961)

Strange Fruit consists of empty fruit skins that the artist sutured together and sprawled across the gallery floor. The work was created in New York during the early days of the ongoing global AIDS crisis, before any life-saving treatments were available. The era was marked by tragic loss and the increasing stigmatization of queer and Haitian communities, sex workers, and drug users. As friends died daily and relentlessly, Zoe Leonard turned to sewing as an act of mourning and repair. Recalling the European tradition of memento mori paintings, which incorporate imagery like fruit and flowers to symbolize life’s fragility, the fruit in this work decomposes before our eyes.

The work’s title is taken from an anti-lynching song written by Abel Meeropol and recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. Both effigy of, and elegy to, the lives of loved ones, Strange Fruit offers a haunting and poignant meditation on persecution and transformation.

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Object Details

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