On View: Contemporary Art, Northwest Corner, Intro Gallery
In Sanford Biggers’s Blossom, a piano fused with a tree plays “Strange Fruit” (in an arrangement by the artist). The song, popularized in the 1930s by Billie Holiday, protests the atrocity of lynching:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
The haunting lyrics suggest that the piano attached to such a tree might be interpreted as a surrogate for a violated human body.
In making this work, the artist was influenced by a 2006 incident in Jena, Louisiana, in which nooses were dangled from a tree at a local high school. The Equal Justice Initiative has found that Louisiana was one of the states in which a disproportionately high number of racial terror lynchings took place between 1877 and 1950.
More broadly, however, the piece also evokes the rich cross-cultural symbolism of trees. For instance, Biggers has cited the story of Buddha finding enlightenment under a bodhi tree. The work’s unlikely combination of the heinous and the compassionate demonstrates the artist’s paradoxical interest in multiplicities of both inspiration and interpretation.
Steel, plastic and synthetic fibers, wood, MIDI player piano system, Zoopoxy, pigment, soil, modelling clay, polyurethane foam
12 x 18 x 15 feet (365.9 x 548.8 x 457.3 cm) (show scale)
Purchase gift of Toby Devan Lewis, Charles and Amber Patton, and an anonymous donor, gift of the Contemporary Art Council, and the Mary Smith Dorward Fund
The Brooklyn Museum holds a non-exclusive license to reproduce images of this work of art from the rights holder named here.
The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act.
For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress
, Cornell University
, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums
, and Copyright Watch
For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright
If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact email@example.com
If you wish to contact the rights holder for this work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
and we will assist if we can.
Sanford Biggers (American, born 1970). Blossom, 2007. Steel, plastic and synthetic fibers, wood, MIDI player piano system, Zoopoxy, pigment, soil, modelling clay, polyurethane foam, 12 x 18 x 15 feet (365.9 x 548.8 x 457.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchase gift of Toby Devan Lewis, Charles and Amber Patton, and an anonymous donor, gift of the Contemporary Art Council, and the Mary Smith Dorward Fund, 2011.10. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, DIG_E_2017_The_Legacy_of_Lynching_2011.10_view05_PS11.jpg)
DIG_E_2017_The_Legacy_of_Lynching_2011.10_view05_PS11.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2017
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome
any additional information you might have.