By Nicole S. Daniel
The Birmingham Times
Rather than leave the city where she grew up and where family still lives, visual artist Erika Mixon, decided to stay and make Fairfield a better place.
“I always feel like it’s important, somebody has to stick around, somebody has to help out or don’t give up,” Mixon said. “My mom is still in Fairfield and she’s not leaving. I don’t want to be the kind of person that doesn’t look back and give back to where I came from. Fairfield did help me grow and it afforded me opportunities. It exposed me to things that helped me. So I always had in my mind that I wanted to do something that focuses on Black art and its artists.
Mixon is a founding member of the Fairfield Black Art Collective (FBAC), created in January to support Black visual artist and provide resources as well as community outreach through the arts and “celebrate our roots, honor those who paved the way for us, and to embolden those coming behind us.”
Members of the group consider themselves “like-minded artists who wanted to carve out a space to celebrate our heritage through our shared love and appreciation for the arts while giving back to our community,” Mixon said. “Coincidently we all just so happened to each be born and/or raised in the city of Fairfield, AL. As a collective we plan to serve as a resource center composed of artists, curators and supporters who work together to support and promote the work of every member of the collective … “
The other members of the collective are Atuarra McClasin, Ebone’ Gilbert, and Jamelia Pearson.
Initially, the four artists were only supposed to come together to produce an art show.
“We’re all from Fairfield. We all are connected to the city, we can use this to bring some positive energy and light to the city … we should give the media something positive to talk about,” Mixon said.
One event was the first Cultural Collateral – Black Art Group Exhibition earlier this year. “It was a movie. Our initial goal was to make it an intimate show with 10 artists …” Mixon said. “After we did our calculations about 200 people came. Our goal was to make people feel. Like you were walking in a museum or a gallery with nothing but Black art.”
“We wanted to make sure we tied back to [Fairfield High Preparatory School] so that people can see a lot of us flourishing in the arts.”
Her most memorable moment from the event. Mixon said, was when the collective met up the morning of the show to set up and she got to everybody’s art work came in. “I was blown away by the type of images they had. It was a good mixture of styles,” she said.
Fell In Love
Mixon, 41, remembers first drawing around the age of 10. “I was introduced to painting from a local artist by the of name Jerome Austin when I was 13 years old. He taught me oil painting which is the only medium I know. I took five private classes with him.”
That’s when Mixon said she fell in love with painting and started practicing on her own but didn’t pursue it in high school. She was accepted into a magnet school, but again love for her hometown prevailed.
“I chose to stay in Fairfield, I wanted to go to Fairfield High School,” she said. “Even though I decided not to pursue art in regard to education, we did have art classes [and] I still got to learn about different mediums,” she said.
Although Mixon took art classes, science became a focus. “I’m a curious person by nature. I always want to know why, and science helps with those curiosities. That’s how I fell into the health care field.”
Biology was intriguing because of her study of the human body. “For whatever reason, the heart for me was just so interesting. As a child I heard someone say, ‘if the heart or the brain goes you die immediately.’ I think it was the way it was said to me made me say ‘wow.’ Then I started to wonder how.”
Mixon graduated from Fairfield High School in 2000 and furthered her studies at Talladega College majoring in biology before transferring to the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she graduated from in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in radiological sciences.
After graduation, she worked in diagnostic X-rays for a year then transitioned to cardiac catheterization.
In 2013, she quit her job as a clinical application specialist to become a caregiver for her father who became sick and eventually passed away in 2013.
“For whatever reason, it just hit me to paint. Painting was therapeutic for me. I was in a different space and was needing something to do, needing something to just put the energy in and focus on something else,” she said.
The artist found how much she missed creating art pieces. “That’s when painting started back for me. I saw how it helped me and how I began to feel better.”
But Mixon had to re-learn a lot of techniques as well as how to mix paint. “Then I eventually reached out to some local artists who were teaching just to kind of get back acclimated with painting. That’s when I started to take it more seriously.”
She decided to form a business entity. “I’m business oriented and I’ve always known I was going to be an entrepreneur.”
She also obtained a masters degree in business in 2022 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “I’m business oriented and I’ve always known I was going to be an entrepreneur.”
“Change For The Better”
Asked about type of art she creates, Mixon, who now operates under the artist name, E.Latriceart, replied, “I like to create things that have a message, my images are always intentional because I think art should always if not make you feel good, make you feel bad, but it should make you feel, regardless of what it is, that’s how powerful it is.”
After not painting for many years, Mixon’s comeback in 2014 included a solo show at the Botanical Gardens with three large paintings.
“I don’t have a name for the images collectively, but it was basically me showing an interpretation of a dream I had during a fast,” she said. “I’m very much a believer in God and [fasting] is a practice I have routinely in my life. The image was you seeing your life from the first-person perspective; the second image was really how it looks in a linear perspective, going through life. The third image was what the purpose is of going through life. It’s really just a journey, and you’re returning back home and it’s not an ending. It’s just you’re transitioning to another form of life.”
That’s when she shifted her focus on Black art with a message to make people feel something or be enlightened “because I’m always passionate about my people and my community.
Mixon said her ultimate goal as an artist is to know when I leave here, whatever I created, it continues to speak to people, especially in my community, but to people in general, whether it’s about my community, whether they get from it, and they’ll understand Black culture better, understand where I stand in my place in society and how I either contribute or how I enable how Black people experience life in this world. I want it to be a way to change for the better.”
Updated on 8/16/17 at 11:43 a.m. to include social media information.