Zoe Leonard, American, born 1961
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Strange Fruit began as a means of consolation for the artist after the death of a friend, but now presents a wide range of possible readings, including a meditation on loss and mortality. The fruit skins—emptied, dried, faded, repaired, and ornamented—have the feel of relics, almost like photographs. Transformed by the artist's delicate mending, they are subject to effects of time that are as unpredictable as they are inevitable.
Taking its title from a song by Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit is unique in its materials but not in its themes. It recalls the venerable tradition of vanitas still-life paintings, which show objects that suggest the fleeting nature of life, such as a flickering candle or a wilting flower. Far more direct than a picture, Strange Fruit actually will decay. By introducing the natural rhythms of a work of art's life into the museum setting, Strange Fruit raises questions about the permanence of art, and whether it resides in objects, ideas, or people's experiences and memories.