NURIA BARBOSA LEÓN
"I am a graphic designer who paints," affirms Jorge Martell, author of the International Free the Five campaign poster, "Obama: Give me Five"
BORN in Havana, December 19, 1948, Jorge Martell owes his training to Havana’s San José Visual Arts College. In the 1960’s he worked in the Plaza de la Catedral Experimental Graphics Workshop and founded the Hermanos Saíz young artists design group. His daily undertakings are linked to projects in the Pabellón Cuba exhibition area and his work appears on book covers and in the form of illustrations of more than 300 volumes.
Despite a long stay in the United States, he defends his national identity with pride. During the 30 years that he lived there, he was a member of the New York Art Directors Club, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the Graphic Arts Guild and the Federation of Cuban Teachers of Fine Arts. He was responsible for the artistic direction of eminent publications and left his mark in large publicity agencies. In 1993, the Chicago Institute of Design distinguished Martell as one of the 100 best graphic designers in the country, and the only Hispanic in its selection.
His work can now be seen around the world in the form of the poster used by the International Free the Five Campaign.
The liberation of the Cuban anti-terrorist patriots Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and René González is raising people’s awareness and mobilizing them. In this context, Martell commented, "I am working within the campaign from the grassroots. My first approach to it was professional, and later, personal. From the professional point of view, I see a marked difference between publicity and propaganda. The second contributes political ideas and the other sells goods and services. When you are undertaking propaganda work like the "Obama: Give me Five" poster, and there is a coincidence of ideas, the artist puts in this neuralgic point, the extra needed."
What do you feel on seeing your poster traveling around the world?
I feel completely fulfilled at the professional level. In the personal context, I believe that I have fulfilled my duty. "Obama: Give me Five" is the result of a lot of planning work to find a way to address that society. It was an incisive search of more than two years into general history and U.S. graphics. Greetings are a primary human contact, and all peoples have developed their own. Parents say to their little ones "Give me five" from an early age. It is a way of relating to persons with a known expression.
Your personal experience in this kind of campaign?
This type of campaign is mobilizing the world and the U.S. people in particular. It talks to them in their language with the ethical codes that must be managed to reach those receiving it. In order to penetrate a distant market you have to know it in depth, cohabit in it. On that basis, I learnt another idiosyncrasy, in addition to mine. I noted that all the messages were in Spanish, when they were directed to an essentially English-speaking group. I decided to search for something very much theirs, to create awareness, because they are the ones who vote, the ones called upon to change events and circumstances.
Are there other plans for this year?
I am doing some small collateral projects with other messages to accompany the initial campaign as flyers, pieces to send by email and other media. I am focusing on similar ideas, without losing the central thread. I attend different events and promote my ideas in accordance with the public to which they are directed. I anticipate the reaction of President Barack Obama and his people according to the historical sequence. I have an idea of the trend of events and draw a response to that. In a campaign, it doesn’t always happen that the idea arrives at precisely the right moment, hence the need to look ahead.