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Award-Wining Mexican Cartoonist Felipe Galindo Talks 'Frida Kahlo's New York' Showcase, Charlie Hebdo Tragedy (EXCLUSIVE)

First Posted: Apr 30, 2015 12:55 PM EDT
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Cartoonist and Illustrator Felipe Galindo

Cartoonist and Illustrator Felipe Galindo(Photo : Eugenio Castro)

Can you imagine legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo walking through the streets of New York City, almost as if she was a vibrant Mexican painting that came to life -- merging the past within a contemporary backdrop? 

Now can you imagine her grabbing a hot pretzel and paying a visit to the famous Statue of Liberty?

Award-winning, Mexican-American cartoonist and illustrator Felipe Galindo/Feggo is bringing these illustrations to life with his "Frida Kahlo's New York" an exhibition at The Mark Miller Gallery from May 7 through June 7.

The exhibition features works on paper and sequential artworks, as well as preparatory drawings and storyboards for the animation in progress of the same title.

"It's an homage to Frida Kahlo," Galindo told Latin Post in an exclusive interview. "Everything I'm doing is very whimsical. I am imagining what she would be doing here in New York or if something in New York had influenced her work, I am just picking that up in a humorous way."

"She will be visiting many places in New York. She will be visiting the Statue of Liberty, looking at advertising in the city and self-portraits. I am using elements from her work. ... It will be fun, you will see!"

While Kahlo has visited the Big Apple five times, Galindo wanted to focus on her visit in the 1930s and 1940s.

"At the time, she was more known for being Diego Rivera's wife. They were well-received and she was the talk of the town," Galindo pointed out. "They had a lot of displays based on the way that she dressed."

"Frida Kahlo's New York" also salutes the much anticipated exhibition "Frida Kahlo, Art, Garden Life" opening in mid-May at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.

The treasured artist who was ahead of her time, yet celebrated her traditional Mexican heritage, is adored from art aficionados, feminists and art lovers all over the world.

Galindo has a personal connection to the artist, and for years--and later--he had animations of her that he wanted to "put in printed form like comic strips or sequential art," he pointed out.

He reflected upon being a student in Mexico City in the 1970s, where most students focused on the works of the "masters" like Diego Rivera (who was later married to Kahlo) or Matisse -- times where modern art and conceptual art took precedence.

"It wasn't until I moved to New York in the 1980's that her work became more noticeable again. Basically, she was being discovered," he explained. " I noticed that she had a lot of strength in her work and in her persona (that was celebrated by) feminists to art lovers and even in arts education. For example, for me to see a third grader that knows Frida Kahlo, it's very rewarding in the sense that Mexican art has really been appreciated in all of its forms," said Galindo, who is also a third grade art teacher.

"I am also a little embarrassed that in my generation in Mexico, that we were not paying attention to her. Now, I am making up for it," he laughed.

Coincidentally, Galindo lived in Coyoacán, the same borough in Mexico City where Kahlo lived. He also worked right across from her home, which is famously known as "La Casa Azul."

"It was made into a museum, but nobody was ever there," he said. "There was a point in the '70s ... the entrance was free, but no one was there at the time. There were a few students who liked her and liked the Mexican movement. ... It was a struggle between the old school and the new school."

Coming to New York from Mexico 30 years ago, Galindo can relate to how Kahlo must have felt when she first visited the bustling city.

"Everything is new, what some things New Yorkers take for granted we see differently. ... We share new likes of what has been seen by a million," he explained. "Even landmarks like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the Statue of Liberty, it might spark new ideas. A newcomer or an immigrant will see them in a different light."

Galindo has indeed seen New York City in a different light.

Currently, his artwork is featured in the MTA's Poetry in Motion posters in subway cars throughout the New York City. His public art project "Magic Realism in Kingsbridge" features his signature humorous works fabricated in glass and installed on the 231st Station of the #1 subway line.

"That is one detail of the four designs that I made for the MTA that were translated into glass," he explained. "It looks like stained glass, it's called faceted glass. I was really happy to get that commission. That took me like 9 months, it was like having a baby!" he joked.

Galindo added that the permanent display had a special meaning to him because it was installed the same week of his 25th anniversary of his arrival to New York. "It was very symbolic to me," he added.

Galindo is also the creator of the celebrated project "Manhatitlan", a project that he started in the '80s, which includes works on paper, animations, and the book "Manhatitlan, Mexican and American Cultures Intertwined." He is also the author of "No Man Is a Desert Island."

"Out of nostalgia, I started imagining Mexican images in New York City. I was intertwining all cultures and I did some animation and works on paper -- as a celebration of culture. There wasn't as big of a Mexican population in New York at the time."

Galindo has mourned the loss of his fellow cartoonists in Paris in the tragic and horrific terrorist attacks and has shared his thoughts on freedom of expression and Georges Wolinski, one of the slain cartoonists, (who led the founding team at Charlie Hebdo, then called Hara-Kiri) whom he had met a couple of years ago.

Wolinski, one of France's best-known cartoonists, served as editor-in-chief from 1971 to 1980, until it folded and was part of the team that resurrected it in 1992.

Galindo met Wolinski in June 2012 at the Porto Cartoon Festival in Portugal, where the Mexican cartoonist/illustrator won an award for this cartoon on global warming, originally published in Reader's Digest.

Galindo and a fellow cartoonist have started a FECO (Federation of Cartoonists Organisations) chapter to help support and empower cartoonists. What started out as helping with copyright issues soon turned into bringing "more awareness to other cartoonists who have suffered persecution in other parts of the world," he explained.

"It galvanized a movement," he said of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. "There were responses from all over the world. Cartoonists have responded with images. There have been many exhibitions supporting 'Charlie Hebdo.'"

Reflecting on a recent trip to Norway, Galindo pointed out that the images and cartoons were "in solidarity with the cartoonists, basically mocking the extremists. ... The responses have graphically been very strong and emotional, but not in a hateful way."

Check out Galindo's "Frida Kahlo's New York" at The Mark Miller Gallery from May 7 through June 7. For more information on Galindo's work, click here.

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