Tommy Mitchell Imagines a Black Byzantine Icon for “Heroes” Series

1xRUN is excited to welcome Tommy Mitchell to the Most of My Heroes collection with a limited print edition and original artwork! The Mississippi-born artist combines his life drawing skills with an affinity for religious iconography to imagine history’s idols that never were. Read below for our exclusive interview with the artist.

1xRUN: Can you tell us a little bit about the piece, and what’s happening in this scene? Is there anything you would like to highlight about this image?
Tommy Mitchell:
This work is from a series where I began examining and the exploration of religious imagery and its influence in portraiture. My work places black women and women of color in the posture of those of the Renaissance era with Byzantine era elements. I am always searching for ways to bridge my fascination with religious imagery and fashion photography components.

1x: How did the idea and execution come about for this image?
The particular model I used had a look that I gravitated towards. Theres always something that draws me to a subject or model. Freckles, eyes, a hairstyle, a feature that makes the model/subject unique to me. As far as execution, I always take time to look at the panel I’m working and just sit with it and visualize what needs to be created for it.

1x: Why is it important for people to see this image on a stamp?
To me it’s an opportunity to educate the uninformed about why it’s important to have Blacks on stamps and researching the roles we’ve played in shaping America and history. Also showcasing that there are options now. Balance. I enjoy the thought of someone seeing this and thinking there’s diversity.

1x: What is unique about this piece compared with your other work?
I can’t speak on what is necessarily “unique”. I believe that’s up to the viewer but I’d like to keep the consistency in creating “my” work and create a lane for my work to be unique to those whom view it.

1x: If you could honor a historic African American with their own national holiday who would it be and why?
Black women.

1x: If you could have dinner with any African American from past or present who would it be and why?

1x: How did you first get into art?
Drawing the things I’ve gravitated to as a child. I’ve always appreciated creativity, whether it be through design, architecture and so on, I just happened to stick with it and turn my passion into my craft/lifes task.

1x: Did your parents or family approve/support you becoming a full time artist?
Yes and no. I have parents whom support me in all that I do but I appreciate their support in the form of life is the sum of the work you put in to get the results you seek, nothing is just handed to you or given. My mother always used to say “God only helps those who help themselves”. That gave me the gift of becoming more self sufficient and reliant on accelerated learning.

1x: What would you consider a dream collaboration?
I’ve always wanted to design a NaS album cover. As far as Brand, Nike. Both answers obviously speak from a position of notoriety but I’d like to work with anyone with the same values, respect and attention to details as myself.

1x: What artists inspire you now?
Too many to choose from but Amy Sherald, Nina Chanel Abney, Mickalene Thomas, Lava Thomas, Lina Iris Viktor, Shibazzle, Erik Jones, Barkley Hendricks, POSE, Tristan Eaton, Kehinde Wiley, Club Bum, Zim One, Marly McFly, Kerry James Marshall, Fahamu Pecou, I could go on forever.

1x: Any big shows or events coming up that you’d like to share?
I’m currently showcasing some works at Band of Vices Gallery in Los Angeles.

BGM – Original Artwork by Tommy Mitchell

Follow Tommy Mitchell on Instagram at @TommyMitche11.