The Stranger

Like many other artists of the Cold War era, Hughie Lee-Smith explored themes of exclusion and alienation in his paintings. He believed that the African American experience in particular was one of rejection and isolation and his feelings of racial disparity frequently influenced his work. In The Stranger, a lone figure stands in the foreground engulfed by a brown and green hillside. The man is frozen mid-gesture, looking over his shoulder a wide gulf separating him from the cluster of homes behind him. The man’s race is ambiguous and features blurred, a choice Lee-Smith made in order to symbolize “everyman.” The geography, too, nonspecific, created by the artist from a compilation of sketches and photographic studies of midwestern landscapes. Lee-Smith changed the name of this painting from Town Beyond Slope to The Stranger in 1994 after being struck by the man’s separation from the town.