By Je’Don Holloway Talley
Erin Mitchell, 29, is set to have two pieces from her “Kinship” collection debut on the Fox television network’s fifth-season premiere of “Empire” on Wednesday, September 26: “Legacy” will be displayed during the first episode, and “Reflection” will be shown in the fifth episode, said the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) grad.
Some of the art from Mitchell’s “Kinship” series was on display recently during the Birmingham Artwalk festival.
“I was doing images of black people, but they were all different types of colors—colorful but still cubic and very detailed,” she said. “I was thinking about the basics, the origins, the beginnings [of African life]. … So, a lot of [the inspiration] is akin to traditional African hairstyles, body modifications, and drawings coupled with modern times.”
The “geometrics” are what makes her designs notable, said Mitchell, who self-describes her style as “cubist.”
“One of my favorite artists is [renowned black artist] Jacob Lawrence,” she said. “He worked with this really geometric style that he called ‘dynamic cubism,’ so I like to adopt that. … I [also] adopt from … Picasso’s style. … I guess when most people first look at [my work], they see a cubist feel to it,” she said.
Mitchell is a Birmingham native, but this was her first year at Artwalk.
“I was always in Chicago or moving around, so I’ve never been able to attend and be part of it,” she said. “Being here this year is really exciting. It feels really good to be back home.”
After graduating from ASFA in 2007, Mitchell attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. She then attended another art-focused school, Columbia College Chicago, where she earned a master’s degree in teaching arts. Mitchell teaches art at different schools and community programs, “and I’m a full-time artist, so right now I’m making work [for myself] however I can,” she said.
“Outside of teaching, I’m just spreading, expanding, and showing where I can. Birmingham is my hometown, my base quarters, but I also move around and still do some work in Chicago and New York.”
Mitchell taught art in Chicago before returning home to the Magic City.
“Right now, I’m mainly focused on making my artwork,” she said. “I still freelance as an art teacher; I’ll come in for quick art lessons with the kids. I’ve worked with the Alys Stephens Center, too.”
Mitchell wants to continue her representation as a black woman in the world of art even if it means “being in white spaces—predominately white art-based institutions—where I’m bringing my work in and being some sort of representation for black women, black people, and our stories.”
As for the future, Mitchell said, “The sky’s the limit.”
“I’m optimistic, … and I’m not going to count myself out on anything that can come my way. Having two works on “Empire” [is something] I would never have dreamed of that even a year ago. It’s been a little more than a year now since I decided to make this full-time, and that’s amazing by itself.”
This article first appeared in The Birmingham Times.