Crystal Galindo is a powerful Yaqui-Xicana, who’s constantly creating influential art for women of color. The Bay Area resident believes in the importance of representation and uplifting other muxeres, through portraying them as activists, Azteca goddesses, and covering them with sweet Mexican dulces. Crystal spoke to me about her unapologetic presence in art and how important body positivity is. Through our conversation, I learned a lot about how to partake in self-love, self-care, and gaining confidence. Galindo also explains why her series, Dulceria, is centered on indulgence, which reminded me to practice as much self-love as my xicanita self can.
The passion and love for her Mexican/Indigenous roots is evident and it was incredibly humbling to listen to her life, experiences, and ideologies. Check out our conversation below.
Michelle: Where did you grow up?
Crystal: I grew up in Exeter, CA, a tiny town in Tulare County. Growing up, I never realized that I lived in the middle of nowhere. The hills, and mountains, agriculture, and constant familiar faces were comforting to me. I always felt a level of guilt and fear in trying to move out on my own and start a life 4 hours away. I didn’t experience what it was like to truly feel independent until I moved to the Bay Area.
M: Tell me about your family.
C: I am the second born of four children. My parents grew up in the Central Valley as well, with roots in Mexico, Arizona and Texas. I have always been very close with my family, and it was hard to move far away from them. But, in being able to share my work and be a part of a strong POC artist/activist community, it has been easier to grow roots and plant seeds wherever I go.
M: Where did your passion for art begin?
C: As far back as I remember, I have always wanted to be an artist. I used to watch my dad draw with graphite and ball point pen back in the day, and I wanted to be just like him. My mom used to sculpt and paint as well. I also love to sing, but that’s another subject haha! The earliest I can recall telling my parents that I wanted to be an artist was probably around age 4.
M: What role has being a woman of color played in your art?
C: My color, my ethnicity, background, etc. will eternally be woven into my work. I cannot separate the two, nor do I want to. As a kid, I collected magazines and art books, and tried my best to draw faces that reflected BEAUTY. I wanted to capture the features of the womxn I saw in the many fashion and beauty magazines I looked at and tried to emulate. I didn’t realize that while I was admiring the faces of models, movie stars and such, I was internalizing beauty standards that looked nothing like me. I was simultaneously hating myself while uplifting womxn who looked like quite the opposite of me, my friends and family. It wasn’t until I was in undergrad that I realized that I was worthy of being ART as well. That my body, my skin, my curves and my attitude were beautiful, and needed to be represented. That blossomed into my need to also represent the muxeres around me who need to see themselves in ways popular media will not display.
M: Where do you find motivation/inspiration?
C: I find inspiration for my work all around me. As a new mother, I feel it is my responsibility to shed my insecurities and self-scrutiny and set an example for my children. I believe we absorb a tremendous amount of our self-confidence from our environment, and I want to instill unapologetic self-love in my kids no matter what. I also hope to be able to give that confidence to others as they see themselves and people who look like them in my art.
M: As a woman, a native, and an activist, do you ever feel you have responsibility to tell a specific narrative through your art?
C: Expanding on my last answer, yes. I think that too often our stories are told by people who aren’t us, and in turn our representation is boxed into stereotypes, tropes, and narratives that are based on the dominant perspective.
It is so important and crucial for brown, black, indigenous, latinx, etc. to be able to speak up, regardless of gender and body type.
White Supremacy and eurocentric beauty standards dehumanize us. I want my work to give us a platform, as well as inspire others to do the same.
M: Your series Dulceria celebrates indulgence and self-love, something many of us women of color have difficulty with. What inspired you to do this series?
C: I noticed that recently there has been a sudden boom in the use of foods as art in the xicanx/latinx/indigenous community. With the world becoming a smaller place, it is almost impossible to create work free from the influence/osmosis of our surroundings and social media. Browsing through the “explore” tab on Instagram, or scrolling through Tumblr, I started to see a lot of enamel pins, t-shirts, embroidery, accessories, and paintings that centered on conchas, pan dulce, mazapan, etc. I began to analyze why such a sudden rise in this imagery was taking place, and thought back to some of my early works when I was doing the same. I found the use of these foods in my previous art to be an affirmation of identity and culture, as well as an assertive look at indulgence in its many forms. In these uncertain times, it is important to speak for ourselves and write our own stories as well. What better way to instantly draw a connection than with food?
I was inspired to revisit the concept of Mexican sweets/snacks in my art while addressing the issue of guilt in our community. As muxeres, it seems that we are taught to be selfless rather than selfish. In turn, our decisions regarding what we do for ourselves become acts of martyrdom. We pass up opportunities to indulge in life because of this unspoken code of sacrifice, and when we do treat ourselves, it is tinged with guilt. At the surface, someone may look at “Dulceria” and think that it’s just about muxeres eating snacks and dressing cute. But, looking further, I hope people connect and discover that indulgence in one’s self is the real focus. What makes us feel good? Travel? Sex? Spending time alone? Wearing lingerie no matter what our bodies look like? I am honored and excited to create work that will spark conversations and hopefully inspire us to love ourselves more, because we live in a society that teaches us that we shouldn’t.
Check out Crystal’s online art gallery here.