Athletes, street thugs, and men at war: the art of Vincent Valdez
This thesis examines the work of artist Vincent Valdez in the decade between 2004 and 2014. Valdez's three major series of work are examined beginning with Stations (2004), Excerpts for John (2008) and The Strangest Fruit (2014). Each of these series centers on a specific male type--the soldier, the boxer and the urban "street youth." In the three series examined Valdez's young men may be interpreted as facing major obstacles in society as they attempt to demonstrate their masculinity. Valdez's young males are presented as sacrificial figures. Central to my thesis is the exploration of Valdez's incorporation of Christian themes and iconography. In his construction of masculinity, Valdez adapts the Christian concept of self-sacrifice. Valdez's use of the martyr concept within his work mirrors the strategy incorporated by the authors of the early Christian martyr texts. By presenting his male figures as martyrs, Valdez acknowledges historic and present struggles, preserves the dignity of his subjects, and suggests they are active participants in the shaping of their identities, rather than portraying them as victims of a dominant Anglo culture and society. Through his work Valdez illustrates the Mexican American male experience in the United States while exploring issues of race, class and gender.