was born on January 30, 1948, and studied art throughout her childhood. After graduating from NYC’s High School of Music and Art in 1966, she published stories and covers in Underground Comix under the name Willy Mendes in the early 70’s. In 1980, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California at Riverside.
Ms. Mendes invented her style of “Epic Paintings” in her youth. Her large canvases are filled them with hierarchal, narrative imagery and brilliant colors; woven into intricate
compositions. Her paintings have been
exhibited in numerous solo and other exhibits since 1973 in NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Florida.
Multiculturalism and all aspects of womanhood were favorite subjects until 1992, when the artist painted a mural in a Sephardic synagogue in Los Angeles, and was introduced to her own glorious heritage.
The study, practice and celebration of Torah Judaism eventually became the driving force in both her Life and Art.
My artwork has always sought to portray the infinitely complex yet somehow ordered contents of a human mind, along with the mysterious but strong emotional and spiritual forces that compel
so much of human life.
My art mimics the heirarchal order of mental imagery, instead of seeking to mimic the visual work of the eyes. Because I am also enamoured of how eyes see things, my hobby
is photography, which does such a great job reproducing the world as eyes see it. My painting is about how it feels
to be alive; this includes much information about how things look, but as part of greater subjective reality.
I try to symbolize emotional and spiritual forces by creating and arranging
imagined figures and areas of raw intricate design interspersed with imagery from the visual world.
I also have a point to make in my art. I believe art can and should influence the human
condition in a positive way.
Growing up, I knew that the Mendes family had been important in the past, and that my Great Grandfather had been Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation
Shearith Israel in New York for many years. My mother’s Russian Jewish family were leaders in the labor movement in America, and secular. I was brought up to be a proud, modern, secular, humanist person
who happened to be Jewish. Searching for spiritual meaning, as a young adult I was fascinated and inspired by Eastern philosophy, and as an older adult I was inspired by Bob Marley and Reggae music into
fascination with African culture. Latin American art has been an ever-present inspiration. By extension of it all, I embraced multi-culturalism. My Fine Art Manifesto of the time declared that all
artists should drink from the pool of world culture, so closely at hand in the age of information.
My life changed when I was invited to paint murals in a Sephardic synagogue in Los Angeles. For
the first time, I was exposed to the beauty and depth of my very own heritage, a heritage that had been pounding in my blood the whole time. I was so fortunate to be exposed in a gentle way that led me
to the path of Teshuva (Return).
In Judaism I found truths and ideals that ignite my spirit. I found a social order and a way of life that inspires and includes me. I found strong individuals and
groups who guide and accompany me through the procession of life. I found an infinite wealth of knowledge and beauty to absorb.
I also found an audience. Ever since my artwork began to reflect my
ever-growing Jewish experience and knowledge, it has become filled with details and meanings which connect to viewers who share my love and knowledge enough to enjoy the complex nature of my work.
Judaism is meant to be a light to the nations. The mission of my art is to inspire people to come closer to this awesome source, and help in my own tiny but given way, to inspire humankind forward
towards a Day of Redemption.