An Uptown Artists’ Work Reflects Everyday Objects and People

Felipe Galindo stands in front of his artwork at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights.

Felipe Galindo, a Manhattan-based artist, weaves subway transit routes into the bodies, faces and clothes of a bus driver and passengers in one of his colorful cartoonish paintings.

Galindo draws people whom he sees on subways, parks, museums, restaurants, coffee shops and elsewhere. His canvas is any item that works – show tickets, shoe boxes, music sheets, envelopes, take-out boxes and even hospital visitors’ passes. His pop-up exhibition, “Portrait of My Community,” is on display at Washington Heights’ Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest house, until Jan. 2, 2022.

“It’s basically a celebration of everybody, everyday life situations, everyday life people,” said Galindo, who is also known as Feggo, and who used a subway map as his canvas.

Shiloh Holley, the museum’s executive director, said Galindo is “clever” in how he incorporates “stories and little jokes” into his work. 

Galindo, an illustrator, cartoonist and animator, creates a bridge between the past and the present in his work. He shows how the uptown community has become more diverse and resilient with longtime residents and newcomers all living together in harmony. His illustrations depict people in Washington Heights, where he has lived for 13 years, but his work also represents Harlem and Inwood and the larger community of New York City.

There are 30 pieces of mixed-media artworks that he created over the years, including a few this year, on display at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Their prices range from $150 to $2,000. This pop-up show is part of the artist’s “Use/Reuse” series that he has shown at El Museo’s (S) Files Biennial, Philosophy Box Gallery, Mark Miller Gallery and The Bronx Museum. 

“I’m very concerned about the environment,” he said. “I want to just contribute with my art, to make a reflection of our society, how we consume stuff. It’s my response as an artist to the consumerism, but in an artistic way, and some humor.”

Galindo recycles the ordinary objects people throw away each day — used paper bags, boxes, coffee cups, beer cans — as a way to respect the environment. These objects also provide insight into the people and times he sketches. 

In one work, he uses as his canvas an old blue and white paper to-go coffee cup that was once a New York City icon. Known as the “Anthora,” the cup uses Greek colors and images and says, “We are happy to serve you.” 

The piece in the Morris-Jumel exhibit shows a man wearing a yellow plaid shirt and a baseball cap with the letters “NY.” His arm, made of paper, sticks out from the cup, his hand holding a miniature drawing of the Anthora cup. The cup is identical to the cup on which he is drawn. It looks like he is serving someone from a coffee shop window, bordered by Greek columns.

“This coffee cup is very ingenious,” said Devlin Adams, 49, a former volunteer docent at the museum. “It’s nostalgic because that’s how the coffee cups used to look like when I was growing up in the ‘80s.”

Holley said that’s what Galindo does in several of the exhibition’s works: He uses logos “or even a banana sticker” and repurposes them into other designs. 

Galindo, whose art incorporates the logos, images and wording that already appear on disposable packaging, said he likes the graphics. “I like to admire many things, even if it’s something that we’re going to throw away.”

Adams said that Galindo’s work reminds him of pop artist Andy Warhol, who took images from pop culture, such as a Campbell’s soup can, and reproduced it with humor as a message against commercialism. 

Like Warhol, Galindo’s colors are vibrant and the people who dot his illustrations are drawn simply and often portrayed doing everyday activities. Some images are almost cartoon-like. 

Galindo is also known for his cartoons, which have appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He signed most of his earlier work Feggo, which he carried over from Mexico as his pen name. His later works show F. Galindo.

“I think he’s able to do something that few artists right now, who sort of work in this kind of satirical language, are able to do,” said Niria Leyva-Gutiérrez, the executive director at Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance. “He does it seemingly with so much ease, but it’s so complex and layered.” 

The humor Galindo uses makes his work accessible and gives it wider appeal, she said. But then, there are all these other social and educational messages underneath.

Galindo’s work pays homage to a long history of satirical illustrators in Mexico such as artist José Guadalupe Posada, an important printmaker of the early 20th century, Leyva-Gutiérrez said.

Galindo, 64, was born and raised in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and went to the National Autonomous University of Mexico where he studied fine art, sculpture, illustrations and art history. By his third year of college, he started earning income publishing cartoons in the school’s magazine. After graduating, he went to New York – initially for only six months – to market his portfolio. He was offered a job as a cartoonist at a publishing company and he decided to stay.

Galindo’s work has been exhibited in Mexico, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Belgium, Italy, Croatia, Japan and at The United Nations. He has collections at numerous institutions including the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. There is also a permanent installation of his glass artwork uptown at the 231st Street subway station, commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit program.

Another piece in the Morris-Jumel show, “Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe,” that Galindo made in 1995, is mixed media on a wooden cheese box, with portraits of people having a picnic in a park while others walk down a path. It channels French painter Edouard Manet’s 1863 painting of a picnic scene by the same name, which more or less launched him into impressionism.

Galindo’s work, though, is mixed media and more three-dimensional, and his characters are 21st century.

“There is this wonderful way that he has of releasing the viewer from the bounds of time and space,” said Leyva-Gutiérrez. “This is socially engaged art and there’s a very educational aspect to it.”

Galindo is also an educator, and he works with the Community-Word Project and the School of Visual Arts. He will offer a free community art workshop, “Using and Reusing: Giving an Artistic Life to Discarded Materials,” on November 6 from 1-2 p.m. at the mansion.

About the author(s)

Hanna Tamrat, a native of Ethiopia who has lived in Bay Area California, is pursuing a masters degree at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism with a focus on multimedia.