Las Cruces artist and author George Mendoza has been nominated for a 2022 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his book “Journey of the Spirit Man.” Mendoza is also an internationally recognized painter and competed as a runner in the 1980 and 1984 Paralympic Games.
“I’m honored to be nominated,” Mendoza said of the Pulitzer Prize consideration. “It’s like getting a Golden Globe or an Oscar.”
Winners and nominated finalists for 2022 Pulitzer Prizes will be announced in April, according to www.pulitzer.org.
Mendoza, 66, has been legally blind since age 15, he said. Some peripheral vision remains, along with the colors he sees – and paints – on top of the blind spots. He had been painting and drawing since childhood and began painting full time in the early 1990s.
Mendoza has also become a prolific author, with more than 30 books and manuscripts to his credit, including six children’s books, two motivational works and other books in the Spirit Man series waiting to be published.
The books are set throughout the Mesilla Valley and New Mexico, as well as other states and many countries Mendoza has visited. The Spirit Man series is “a modern-day fable,” he said, calling it “magic realism.”
Using talking books for the blind, Mendoza is an avid reader, and a particular fan of the late Tony Hillerman, he said. He uses JAWS screen reader for computer users with vision loss to send and receive emails, including communication with his agent and discussions of potential book and movie deals based on his work.
A New York City native, Mendoza graduated from New Mexico School for the Blind in Alamogordo, which is prominently featured in book No. 7 of his series: “Song of the Spirit Man,” Mendoza said.
He was seriously injured while running in the Organ Mountains in 2011, suffering a broken left arm and broken jaw and damage to his right hip and knee, Mendoza said. That experience helped him “discover” the location in the Organs of the gateway that leads his hero, Michael, on his adventures
in the “Spirit Man” series. The character is based on Mendoza’s real-life son, Michael, and “Journey of the Spirit Man” was dedicated to Mendoza’s daughter, Maria. Both children live in Washington, D.C.
Mendoza’s artwork has been shown in galleries around the world and hangs in many private collections. His exhibition “Colors of the Wind” was a national Smithsonian traveling art exhibit. Biographies of Mendoza include one by that same name, “Colors of the Wind,” and “Running Toward the Light.”
Mendoza has also done his share of book signings, and remembers one in particular at Thomas Branigan Memorial Library during which a young fan asked him, “So you can fly like a blind wizard?”
He also works with creative writing students through a program at New Mexico State University.
He also is the founder of Wise Tree Foundation, a nonprofit he founded in 2013 to promote the arts for the disabled, according to his website.
Mendoza is a Smithsonian fellow and received the NMSU distinguished alumni award in 2014.
Through his paintings and his books, “the world gets to see how I see,” Mendoza said.