“It’s basically my brain throwing up — because I have to get it out — I do the ‘thing’ and I feel a lot better afterwards. It’s like I have a record of it. This is what happened, and there’s the proof. It’s out of me and it’s in its container.”
Samurai White has found a way to deal with the darkness. During her time at Rhode Island School of Design in the early 2000s, White studied graphic design and mix media arts, but years later, took a deep dive into her art as a coping mechanism while caring for her father as he was dying of lymphoma. Having left her own life up North to be with him in Atlanta, his fate looking evermore grim, White began building these funny little men, her “Heavy Metal Nutcrackers:” Slash, David Lee Roth, Ozzy Osbourne, just to name a few. Wooden nutcrackers sculpted, painted and adorned to the likeness of music’s most notorious heavy-metal men. “I did it as a way to pass the time, a way to deal,” she explained.
But her nutcrackers changed everything. In December 2015, Tumblr featured White on their “Radar” and things went viral. Even Carrie Brownstein, of rock-trio Sleater-Kinney and TV series “Portlandia” fame, took note and re-posted a picture of the nutcrackers lauding her work. It was a proud moment the next year when she was able to deliver an Alice Cooper doll to … Alice Cooper, who later posted a picture with White and the doll saying, “Sometimes I get the coolest handmade gifts from fans.”
“Life just exploded after that,” said White. And so did her art. Five months after her dad died, White started making what she calls her “Griefs” to cope with the pain. Using a dropper filled with India ink, White gently introduces inky darkness to the white Bristol paper she’s prepared with a brush and water. The paper is also primed with emotional and sometimes physical violence. “Something is lost,” she said, “if the paper doesn’t feel a fraction of the pain.” A five-knuckled punch to paper punctuates one of her recent Instagram video posts.
The juxtaposition of black and white, translucent water and opaque ink triggers an energetic dialogue between the tones and mediums. Evocative and emotive, the images exude both grace and volatility. Ink bleeding into the water, water bleeding into ink, repercussive pain leeching from the paper. These works are like a veritable Rorschach Test the patient got a hold of while the doctor was out.