Chris Mendoza Paints Ray Bans

The artist paints fine lines on a a limited-edition collection of Ray Ban Wayfarers made for Sunglass Hut's Artist Series.

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Every lasting culture has records of its past. Whether they are hieroglyphics, petroglyphics, calligraphies or letters, faces and forms written on the sides of buildings or subway cars. In their own way they tell the stories of the people who left them there and the world as they saw it. It was this element of storytelling that first attracted Chris Mendoza to street art when he first arrived in New York at the age of eight from Nicaragua.

The now 36-year old artist, who cites Joan Miro, Frank Lloyd Wright and his father among some of his heroes, continues to draw heavily from his Nicaraguan roots, combining indigenous folklore with the popular culture of his urban home. “Each of these artists had a unique style, their own language and symbols which I admire,” Mendoza says.

For his latest project, a limited-edition collection of Ray Ban Wayfarers made exclusively for Sunglass Hut’s Artist Series, Mendoza was inspired by primitive, abstract shapes and eighties-style graffiti. Each pair is unique and features a hand-painted design. They are available in black, red and white and will retail for $250. Only 100 pieces will be made and 25% of the proceeds will go towards Giving the Gift of Sight, which brings vision care and eyewear to those in need.

Dazed Digital: How did moving to the U.S. influence your style?
Chris Mendoza: I moved to the U.S. in the eighties with my family. Living in New York, I was introduced to the urban music of the city, early hip-hop, watching people paint large walls, going to museums, looking at the subway art, admiring the whole cityscape.  The trains, bridges, parks, daily life were all a big influence to me and still are.

DD: What made you decide to be an artist?
CM: My father inspired me immensely.  He was an architect and I watched him draw and create illustrations. His art books were all inspirations. Architecture, music styles, alphabets, studying history inspire me.

DD: How does your work differ from your collaborations with the InkHeads and Barnstormers?
CM: The work I'm making now includes daily observations and studies, drawings and collages, blueprints for future paintings with new themes, which are important to me, and viewing the world we live in.  These are much more personal and give me more of a chance to experiment and express my own views.  In collaborative and large-scale public works, you are working toward one view and responding to the other artists. I am also working on a solo show in Australia.

DD: This is not your first fashion collaboration. What are your thoughts on street art and commerce?
CM: To me, the street itself is art.  I look at what's going on in the streets of New York, Miami, and Japan, for example.  Fashion is a part of all the things the city offers: noise, color, sound, style, attitude, culture.  I see the street as art, instead of looking at what people call "street art" nowadays.

DD: What is your New Year’s resolution?
CM: Construct projects with positive goals.  Create work to share positive messages.

Fans can see Mendoza at work at the Sunglass Hut boutique in SoHo in New York City between 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST on Friday, November 28th. The sunglasses will be sold online beginning December 3rd. For more information, visit Sunglass Hut.

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