Clarity and Color

When I first saw Tony Mendoza’s work, I just blinked a little at the brilliant colors and then smiled at the figure. It was a woman who looked like the Mona Lisa but Cuban-American style with a suggestive smile, a cigarette in one hand and a little cup of Starbucks in the other. There is a sly and ironic sense of humor characteristic of his work that is appealing.

Mona Caffeine and Nicotine

His work features Miami landmarks, happy parties, ironic depictions of the city and Cuban idiomatic expressions.

In my mind, when someone says something, I see it.

Tony Mendoza

He draws on the experiences of a Cuban-American who was born in New York but grew up in Little Havana. He graduated from Miami Senior High and studied Commercial Art at Miami-Dade College. Now, he shares an art studio on Bird Road with another artist.

I love his work based on idioms that only Cuban-Americans use in conversations, but he says that he really enjoys hearing other interpretations from people who do not know the idiom but see his paintings in a novel way.

Ropa Vieja,

This painting is of some patched-up laundry on a line. Every Cuban-American or person familiar with Cuban cuisine knows that “Ropa Vieja” is a traditional entree made from meat. Yet, it also translates into “old clothes” which makes the painting a visual pun. He said that someone purchased the painting because it reminded her of Summer. She lives in snowy climes and likes to remember times when she can hang laundry on a line.

My parents emphasized the culture always thinking that we were going back.

Tony Mendoza

Growing up in Miami, he was surrounded by nostalgia for Cuba. He injects this aƱoranza for other times into colorful houses and scenes from small villages where La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre floats above newlyweds. There is always greenery and sunshine in his Art just like our parents’ memories of la Cuba de Ayer.

I’ve painted murals and paintings about Cuba, but I’ve never been to Cuba.

Tony Mendoza

There are many people of our generation who live in a mental space where Cuba and the United States cohabitate in an uneasy peace filled with nostalgia and just a little sorrow. Mendoza uses the word “hyphenated” just like Firmat in Life on the Hyphen. It is part of the Cuban-American exile community experience.

He paints Miami’s best scenes: bright Art Deco buildings, street parties and all those palm trees. The people are modern Miami. There are long-haired men with bulging muscles, hoop earrings and wild tattoos. There are smiling women with impossibly tight dresses and ample bosoms.


Regardless of the success that he has found since beginning his career as an artist in 2002, he is approachable and kind, a sensitive soul who appreciates Art’s ability to change people.

It’s gratifying because you want your Art to touch people.

Tony Mendoza

For more information about the artist or to order from his body of work, visit

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