George MendozaJanuary 5th, 2015
We are pleased to introduce you to George Mendoza, a fellow Window-Eyes user who is also an accomplished athlete, artist, and writer.
At 15 years old he was diagnosed with the rare condition Fundus flavimaculatus (now more commonly known as Stargardt’s disease); in fact, at the time he and his cousin were the only two known cases. An athlete throughout his childhood, George became depressed with the diagnosis. However, after his move to New Mexico where he attended a school for the blind, he met other athletes who had adapted to their various sports regardless of their condition. George already enjoyed running, but truly fell in love with the sport while attending the blind school. He competed in the 1980 and 1984 Paralympics in both the mile and half-mile races, placing 4th in both. He was a World Record holder in the mile and national record holder in the half-mile.
While at school, George discussed his frustration with his vision with a priest who advised him to paint the kaleidoscope colors he sees. After all, many of the great artists had issues with their sight and found it actually enhanced their ability, giving their art another perspective. George took his priest’s advice and has been painting ever since.
“I close my eyes, see the painting in my head and copy it into paintings”, said George. “Instead of forcing myself to become a painter who focuses heavily on details – I would have failed that way – it’s been a blessing for me to ironically paint what I see.”
George’s art is listed in the Smithsonian Affiliate Exhibition Exchange. More than 80 pieces of his artwork travel with this show – currently, they can be seen at the Ellen Noel art museum in Texas, but will soon be moving on to Oklahoma as well as Louisiana.
George is not only an acclaimed artist, but also a published writer, using Window-Eyes every step of the way. Many of his books are available on Amazon and bookstores around the country. He is the star and illustrator of a new children’s book, Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza. Author J.L. Powers told the story of George’s life and George in turn found the appropriate paintings to fit alongside the story. His work, abstract in nature and brightly colored, reflects his current physical “sight” intertwined with his dreams, memories, and emotional experiences.
George has also been the subject of two PBS documentaries, he’s formed a nonprofit called Wise Tree Foundation in hopes to set up a permanent art gallery to display the work of artists who are disabled. In his spare time, George loves to travel, hike, cook and garden. His advice to our readers is to take risks, dream big, and remember that a visual impairment doesn’t prevent you from doing the things you love; you just might have to get a little bit creative.