Faculty Feature: Felipe Galindo, Cartoons and Activism
“Feggo” looks at art, cartooning, and culture
August 21, 2018
by Sarah Grass
SVACE instructor and internationally renowned cartoonist Felipe Galindo draws simplicity and humor from the complexities of our world. A master of the culturally intertwined tableau, Galindo’s cartoons embrace cultural difference in order to provoke awareness of universal values and empathy. Tackling subjects such as immigration, climate change, gun control and free speech, Galindo has developed a distinct style of art/activism with which he brilliantly simplifies our most complicated human issues. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Galindo about the social role he takes on as an artist/activist and his new SVACE course, Cartoons and Activism.
Feggo, the name with which Galindo signs his work, is an amalgam of his family-given name, Felipe Galindo Gomez. Born in Cuernavaca, Mexico, he moved to New York City in 1983. His work has been included in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, MAD, The International Herald Tribune (France), La Jornada, Nexos, Hoja por Hoja (Mexico), among many other publications worldwide.
SVACE: How would you describe your role as an artist/activist?
FG: I am an observer and a graphic commentator. I use art and humor in a simple and straightforward manner to bring attention to complex issues like immigration and the environment. Much of my work celebrates communities that are often underrepresented or misrepresented. In order to move toward a more socially just society, we need to see the humanity in each other first. Activism is action, and making my community visible is one of the ways I impact change. My project Manhatitlan: Mexican and American Cultures Intertwined, marks my experience as an immigrant, connecting historical and current migration dynamics in the U.S. and around the world.
SVACE: The courses you teach in SVACE surround the notion of intertwined cultures as well. How do you include the subject matter of your work in your courses?
FG: I’ve taught two different courses in the past, Opportunities in the Bilingual Markets and Art Intertwined. The first was aimed at students from Spanish-speaking countries, discussing how to understand the bilingual industry and find opportunities for their work in the U.S. or back in their home countries. The markets are globalized nowadays and it’s important to take advantage of that. The course Art Intertwined was aimed at creating an artistic project based on the student’s cultural heritage, or using another culture as inspiration for it. I give the example of artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Diego Rivera and many others who were inspired by art from other cultures to develop their own. Beginning this fall, I will offer a new course called Cartoons and Activism, aimed at art in response to current events, and contributing thought-provoking images to influence social change.
I always encourage my students to embrace their heritage, and to analyze how it informs their experience at the personal and professional level. To embrace the other in ourselves helps us to understand that we all share basic universal values and we all have something important to contribute.
SVACE: Can you speak a bit about your experience belonging to two cultures?
FG: Belonging to two cultures is fascinating and challenging. Rather than considering myself half-Mexican/half-American, I consider myself wholly Mexican and wholly American, so I get two for the price of one! I treasure my heritage and my adopted homeland every day, merging them in my life and in my work. For me it is a privilege to access my Pre-Columbian roots through my DNA, and a responsibility to honor both cultures. I believe art connects us through our humanity. At its best, the role of artists is to break boundaries by crossing imposed cultural, political and social limitations such as borders and languages.
SVACE: You spoke out in support of cartoonists’ “free speech” after the deadly attack at Charlie Hebdo, and continue to discuss the subject as Secretary General of FECO (Federation of Cartoonists Organisations). What are some of the risks you see cartoonists facing in media today?
FG: I met George Wolinski, one of the slain Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, at a humor festival in Portugal in 2012, where I won an award for a global warming cartoon (he presented me with the award). Utterly shocked to have lost a colleague, I became more outspoken about the issue of freedom of expression. French cartoonists pioneered political cartooning in the late 18th century, and I think in a free society we need to allow all voices to be heard.
As FECO’s Secretary General, I work with an international team that connects and supports cartoonists around the world, tackling issues like work and human rights, censorship, compensation and political oppression. It is important to note that freedom of expression is taken for granted in the U.S., but in many countries cartoonists are regularly detained, harassed and even killed for political reasons, so FECO aims to create an international network of support for cartoonists around the world.
Cartoons should definitely question the status quo and encourage dialogue about controversial issues, but art should not be a hazardous profession.
SVACE: You’ve been publishing images in The Nation’s new OppArt section, self-described as “Artistic Dispatches from the Frontlines of Resistance.” Can you tell us a bit about more about this platform?
FG: My images for OppArt range in subject, from gun control to immigration to tax reform. For example, Artists Take Aim at Guns was published after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. My image was a reflection of the preposterous accessibility to guns in the U.S. that endangers everyone in society, including kids.
My new course, Cartoons and Activism, will direct students’ attention toward work of this kind: an immediate response to what’s happening in the world right now.
A version of this article appears in our Fall 2018 issue of SVA ContinuEd, available now from our office. Take action at our upcoming event, Art & Activism, FREE with RSVP. See more updates and stories on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram pages!