From Texas Public Radio:
Vincent Valdez’s art studio is in an old San Antonio fire station built in 1910. Above the entrance stands a vintage statue of a vigilant firefighter clutching his ax.
Inside, the art space is taken over by one colossal black and white painting — 43 feet long — broken up into six panels. It’s titled “The City.” It features 14 hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan caught in a candid moment on a bluff overlooking a city at night.
“I felt that it was important that the viewer when they first confront the piece, might even make the assumption that it is based on a historical photograph. That this is 1869 or 1920, but when they start looking at the details of the piece they’ll find traces of contemporary life like the iPhone, the baby Nikes, class rings, the cell phone towers and the modern day 21st century Chevrolet truck.”
Valdez started this painting last October. And after working on it seven days a week for 11 months, he says he’s glad it’s finally finished. But, he has been thinking about painting this image for years.
Valdez says viewers make the mistake in assuming it’s a reaction to the current political climate.
“People jump to the conclusion that this is Donald Trump’s fault – Oh, this is Trump all day right? This is about Trump. Well, I ask the viewer to step back for a moment. You don’t have to look very far and you really don’t have to look too deep to realize that this was here – this was present – long before any politician,” Valdez says.
That’s not to say there isn’t a connection to today’s politics. There is a rise in white nationalism in American and in Europe. And according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there is a surge in the growth of white supremacist groups — especially the Ku Klux Klan.
“It’s strangely coincidental, fascinating. It strikes me as being a little bit surreal. I’m not sure what to make of it exactly. I guess all I can say about it is the timing couldn’t be more urgent,” he says.