Notable Sonoma County artist: Gustavo Mendoza uses lowriders as canvas

Before he began rebuilding and airbrushing lowriders, Gustavo Mendoza credits his artistic passion on the cultural pride he saw in lowrider magazines.|

Sonoma County artists draw on their Latino heritage to create works of art that unite, educate and empower. Whether it's designing classic cars like Gustavo Mendoza, who found his niche thanks to another Latino artist; helping troubled young people channel their energy into art like Dayana Leon, who draws inspiration from her powerful Latina mother; or building public artworks from twisted metal and fire like Martin Zúñiga, whose sculptures dot Central and Northern California, art is a force for change and reflection. Some of these artists are familiar Sonoma County names, while others are fresh faces just making their mark on the art world. Together, their works represent a sampling of the passion, strength and diversity that Latino artists bring to the art world across the North Coast.

Here's a look at Gustavo Mendoza, one of these notable artists:

How has your Latino heritage shaped your art?

As a youngster growing up, I would ride my bike to the liquor store to buy the latest Lowrider magazine to look at the lowriders gracing the pages. I enjoyed looking at the paint schemes and the murals. They always depicted Aztecs and lowriders with native, tribal patterns in the paint jobs. I was drawn to that. You had Mexican-Americans like myself expressing their pride, and the canvas that they chose was their car. I love it.

Who is a role model for you?

My role model is Inoel Castellanos, who worked at Sheppard Elementary and would drive his 1979 candy-blue El Camino with a custom grill to school. I went to Sheppard and lived next door, and could see the car from my kitchen window. He would leave it unlocked and I'd go play with the hydraulics from time to time. My sixth-grade year, I made the basketball team at Sheppard Elementary, and “Ino” was the coach. He would preach about his cruising days with Creations Unlimited, a local lowrider car club where he was treasurer. I wanted to be part of something like that. It was May of 1994 that I asked Ino for permission to start Creations Unlimited, the Lowrider car club backup. I've been lowriding ever since.

Favorite quote: “I was with my homie Louie, and we wanted to start a car club, so we got created.” - Ino Castellanos on how Creations Unlimited came to be.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.