Ricardo Mendoza (Salinan) has been active as a public artist, utilitarian designer, painter, printer, and production art director for over twenty years. He is known for his large-scale murals, using unique site opportunities to create dynamic and evocative works of art that interact with the surrounding environment.
Mendoza’s projects are characterized by content-form cohesion, sculptural utility, unique installations, and playful use of materials, engaging viewers with testimony of both personal and broader community concerns, drawing on themes of tolerance, organic vs. geometric, ancestral memory, and environmental sustenance.
With his National Artist Fellowship from Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, Mendoza is creating a large portable wall sculpture using ceramic mosaic. The inspiration for this project comes from the story of social injustice surrounding the fabled Chemehuevi tribal member popularly known as Willie Boy. This article by Lorraine Jessepe, from Indian Country Today, gives a brief history of Willie Boy and Mendoza’s inspiration for the project. The mural illustrates the injustices Indigenous people faced during the era in which the story takes place (1905), as they were subjected to forceful and degrading acts resulting from practices imposed by an occupying culture.
Mendoza had this to say about his art: “We believe in the processes of art as socially responsive and will be approaching this project as in previous public works with a central concern of engaging art as community service while providing moments of visual transformation.” His previous works embody his artistic beliefs, often following themes of community engagement, communal healing, and creating connections between people and place. He often utilizes bright colors and inspiring imagery to achieve these goals, bringing art into the public eye to be enjoyed by all.