Hector Dionicio Mendoza was born in 1969 in Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico and is an artist, curator, and educator based in the agricultural community of the Salinas Valley in California. He is the recipient of the 2022 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Grant and his work was a highlight in the California Biennial 2022 at the Orange County Museum of Art. In his review of the exhibition in the Wall Street Journal, Peter Plagens writes, "There are some gems...and my personal favorite—a truly witty work—“Coyota” (2020), a huge folksily surrealist wall-relief portrayal of the animal by Hector Dionicio Mendoza." Jonathan Griffin included Mendoza in his New York Times feature "5 Artists to Watch at the California Biennial." In addition, Mendoza was nominated for the SFMOMA’s SECA Award and the 2023 Fundación de Arte Cisneros Fontana, CIFO Award.
Mendoza grew up with a great appreciation for the importance of faith, ritual, and alternative healing traditions as practiced by his grandfather, a fifth-generation curandero (shaman) of Afro-Caribeño lineage whose ancestors migrated to Michoacan via Cuba. He practiced a hybrid form of Yoruba-Purépecha comprised of traditional religious and spiritual concepts of Catholicism with African curanderismo and ethnobotany, as well as the pre-conquest polytheistic animistic rites and customs of the indigenous Purépecha people which are rooted in the reverence of ancestors and spirits in nature. In Mexico as well as Central and South America, the curandera/o plays an important role to many people embarking on the long and challenging journey to El Norte/The North (the United States), providing blessings and protection before they depart in search of a better way of life. This ancestral matrice forms the foundation for Mendoza's ambitious and expansive multimedia practice, with it's surprising explorations and unconventional use of natural, organic, synthetic and recycled materials, and explores themes of migration and the environment as well as the geographies of place, memory, identity, and the visualization of immigrant stories.
At the age of twelve Mendoza, along with his family, immigrated to the small town of King City, California, in the ranching and agriculture region located on the Salinas River, along U.S. Route 101 in the Salinas Valley of California's Central Coast, and featured prominently in John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden. After graduating from high school with honors he was awarded a scholarship to attend California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, where he studied graphic design. His interest in this discipline led him to study fine arts at California College of the Arts in San Francisco where he was awarded the President's Fellowship, a full ride scholarship, and graduated magna cum laude in 2001 with a BFA degree. He received his MFA from Yale University in 2009.
After completing his Bachelor’s, Mendoza was invited to several artist-in-residence programs and exhibitions in Europe, including a six-month residency at Kunst Futur in Switzerland (2000), The Bossard Project in Berlin (2001), Casa Santos in Barcelona (2002), and The Putney Arts Center in London (2003). His awards include the Fleishhacker Foundation’s Eureka Fellowship (2004), Kunst Now (2005) in Berlin, and Eco-Conciente (2007) in Mexico City.
Mendoza was awarded the prestigious Lucas Artist Residency (2015) at Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, CA, where he collaborated with Amalia Mesa-Bains, Viviana Paredes, and Steve White to create a space of healing, contemplation, memory, and collaboration entitled Creando Espacio/Place Making: Immigration, Rituals, and Transitoriness. Creando Espacio draws on Mendoza’s childhood memories, creating an outdoor dwelling that modernizes his grandfather’s healing space in Mexico to address the loneliness and isolation often felt by members of immigrant communities.
In 2021, working together with the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and the department of Latinx studies Mendoza helped found and fund the inaugural Mariposa Prize, named after his work “Mariposa/Butterfly" which entered the museum's collection the same year. Mendoza described the award as an investment in young, emerging Latinx artists and scholars. Following his wishes, the inaugural Mariposa Prize encouraged students to “surround [themselves] with ideas, explore possibilities, experiment, be present and get involved with communities.”
Hector Dionicio Mendoza's work has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, Japan and Mexico. He lives in Salinas, CA and is currently an Associate Professor of Sculpture and Installation in the Visual and Public Art Department at California State University Monterey Bay.