Retrospective of Esteemed Hispanic Artist Showcases Five Decades of Work.
By Ofelia Saenz
The celebrated Mexican American artist Nora Chapa Mendoza takes her inspiration from everywhere, but she does not shy away from expressing her political and social perspectives through her art. For a brief run, hundreds of Mendoza’s pieces that span works from the mid 1960s to present will showcase her distinctive artistic voice at Design Studio 6 starting Nov. 4.
“These artworks belong to different periods of time,” said the show’s curator, artist Marta Carvajal, who put together an exhibit of Mendoza’s varied styles. According to Carvajal, identifying, dating and signing the pieces was a huge project because of the volume of works. Carvajal worked diligently with the artist, and where necessary, cross referenced the styles to pinpoint the years each was created.
Mendoza is one of the community’s leading Mexican American artists with a decades-long history in Michigan’s artist culture. She was one of the first in the area to champion Hispanic art through the Galleria Mendoza, first in Pontiac and later in downtown Detroit. She was a founding member of the Michigan Hispanic Cultural/Art Association, and in 1996 she was one of eight artists chosen to work on the renovation of Detroit’s Music Hall.
Although she was born and raised in Texas, Mendoza has spent most of her 90-plus years as a Michigan resident. In 1999, she was named Michigan’s Artist of the Year, and notable collectors of her artwork include former mayor of Detroit Dennis Archer, and the late Queen of Soul, singer Aretha Franklin.
“I guess I was born [an artist], because as soon as I could pick up a brush I knew I was going to paint,” said Mendoza from her home studio. “For me, painting is like eating. The same way we have to eat every day to live, I have to be involved in the painting process almost on a daily basis.”
The artist’s daughter will also be selling copies of Mendoza’s book, which features hundreds of her paintings and sculptures.
“There are so many negative things and scary things and all sorts of problems happening in our world today,” said Mendoza as she reflects on the upcoming exhibit. “But I hope my work will be a small distraction for a moment or day, to just relax, and just enjoy who you are and where you are.”
The exhibit takes place at Design Studio 6 from Nov. 4 through Nov. 12 by appointment only, except for Nov. 4 and 5. The public is invited to an opening reception on Nov. 4 from 5 to 8 p.m., and the gallery is open to the public on Nov. 5 from 3 to 6 p.m. There will also be an Artist Talk from 3 to 4 p.m. on Nov. 5.