WINNER: Vincent Valdez
> Combining gritty yet lyrical hyper-realism with a searing social conscience, Vincent Valdez is rapidly becoming San Antonio's best-known artist nationally. Last year, the Southwest School of Art instructor served as the Texas State Artist for Painting and Drawing and won a $25,000 Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant for "creating work of exceptional quality." This year, a New York Times writer covering the Ted Cruz campaign visited Valdez's West Side studio and called his painting of beer-drinking, iPhone-using, white-robed Ku Klux Klan members "a selfie for 21st-century America," reflecting the racial divides of the 2016 presidential race. The City will be unveiled September 9 in Valdez's one-man show "The Beginning Is Near" at Houston's David Shelton Gallery. Closer to home, a new mural based on his large-scale, black-and-white painting of a sinking sailing ship, Till Then, now graces the lobby of the Palmetto Center for theArts at Northwest Vista College. Inspired by the Mills Brothers' melancholic World War II-era song, the mural involved the work of dozens of local high school student volunteers led by Valdez and artist Alex Rubio. The pair worked together on community murals, that, back in the day, earned Valdez a full scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design. Valdez's most disturbing series, "The Strangest Fruit" (pictured) is named for the Billie Holiday song and features portraits of his friends suspended in air as if by a hangman's noose, a chilling reminder of the more than 600 Mexicans and Mexican-Americans lynched in the United States.
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