Groton artist Tommy Slocum wins TV-linked mural contest

Tattoo artist Tommy Slocum in his studio at 12 Tattoos in Groton on July 3.
Tattoo artist Tommy Slocum in his studio at 12 Tattoos in Groton on July 3.

As FX gears up to premiere its new drama "The Bridge," it kicked off an interesting promotional contest: a competition for artists who were challenged to create a "Bridge"-related mural design.

The task was to create original work inspired by the collaboration between the Latino and American cultures. The whole idea was thematically linked to "The Bridge," which is a crime thriller set along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Five winning murals will be unveiled Sunday - and the one in New York City was designed by Tommy Slocum of Groton.

Slocum, who is a tattoo artist at Twelve Tattoos, has been drawing since he was a kid growing up in Groton. He studied fine art at Mitchell College and at Salve Regina University. At Salve Regina, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2003, with an emphasis in painting, and minored in art history.

It was a former Salve Regina professor, in fact, who forwarded a link for the "Bridge" contest to Slocum.

Slocum developed a work focusing, he says, on how prideful our cultures can be about symbols. He brought together a variety of images - the American eagle and the Mexican caracara, and the flags of America and Mexico, which he drew as if they were melding together.

A banner across the image says "Pride," and Slocum says, "My main point was for anybody who is looking at this to be excited and prideful about their culture."

Slocum drew the design in charcoal pencil.

"I did it in black and gray because that's what I specialize in when I tattoo. I'm very influenced by West Coast Latino tattoo style. ... So I wanted to keep it black and gray to pay homage to that," he says.

His was one of the five winners selected from about 80 submissions.

The judges included Isabel Rojas-Williams, who is executive director at The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, and Jullieta Dominguez, an administrative officer at the Consulate General of Mexico in New York City.

Vice President of Integrated Promotions at FX Kenya Hardaway says they were looking at various criteria, including how well the submission represented the theme and whether it would make a good mural.

Slocum's design was painted by Spanish muralist El Niño onto a wall at 98 Evergreen Avenue in Brooklyn.

"He's unbelievable," Slocum says of El Niño.

The mural unveilings - in L.A., Houston, Miami, Chicago and N.Y.C. - will all run from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, with a block party complete with free food, drinks, music and giveaways.

(The timing, of course, is linked to the premiere of "The Bridge," which happens at 10 p.m. Wednesday.)

The contest winners also each get $1,500. The Slocums - Tom and Sarah, who have kids Elias, 5, and Capri, 4 - just bought a house, so they're planning on using the the money for a refrigerator and stove.

This is the first time one of Slocum's works has become a mural. He has done graffiti work before, though - not on a building, but on a canvas. (He just sold one of his graffiti works, in fact.)

Slocum says, "I've been drawing and painting since I can remember."

What he particularly likes about art is, he says, that "a thousand viewers can have a thousand different opinions."

Tommy Slocum's winning mural design merges American and Mexican symbology.
Tommy Slocum's winning mural design merges American and Mexican symbology.


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