The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Samantha Janes, “Sugar and Violence”

Cultivate 7Twelve’s new exhibit dives into artist’s life in her debut show

2 days ago

Pictured: Artist Samantha Janes stands between two pieces currently for sale in the gallery. Photos by Avery Ballmann

By Hank Holland

A Waco resident and hair stylist for 17 years, artist Samantha Janes always had a fascination for art and anatomy. She had largely taught herself to paint as a hobby. When she lost her father last year, she began grieving through her artistic expression. The result was “Sugar and Violence,” an exhibit that debuted at Cultivate 7Twelve in early May. In her exhibit, Janes takes inspiration from all facets of her life and childhood, as well as dreams, video games, films and literature.

The story starts with the death of Janes’ father, Don, who passed away in July of 2023. Janes said that this experience had brought back unsavory memories.

“I think as I kind of processed that information, a lot of really unwanted memories from childhood started creeping back up, and I was having these awful dreams,” Janes said.

Janes is largely a self-taught artist and began using her art to work her way through grief. She recalled that though she missed her father, his death caused her to reflect on his life as an adult. She recalls that her father was often avoidant and seemed to float in his own life. Her piece titled “Adrift” reflects a vast and stormy ocean and is coated with the medicine her father often used to sleep.

“He would take NyQuil like twice a day, so this piece is called ‘Adrift’,” Janes said. “Which was kind of inspired by my recollection that he kind of let life happen to him more than he actively mapped out his own journey.”

Janes’ art was mostly kept as a hobby as she continued with her hair styling, as well as attending biology classes at McLennan Community College. What changed was last year’s release of Yorgos Lanthimos’ film “Poor Things”. Janes said that the film immediately struck a chord with her, seeing it a total of four times in theaters.

“I wanted to experience the film as purely as possible, so I went alone,” Janes said. “It is a film that has the capacity to change a person’s perspective on life, comfort, exploration and societal convention.”

Emboldened by Emma Stone’s character Bella Baxter (a performance that won the Oscar for Best Actress), Janes decided to debut her art. The title of the exhibit even gives homage to Janes’ favorite line of the film: “I have adventured the world and found nothing but sugar and violence. It is most charming.”

This line, said Janes, captured a newfound attitude on the irony of life.

Her newfound attitude is seen in pieces like “There Will Never Be a Time for Opportunity” and “Fresh Meat”, both of which capture the unpredictability of life’s circumstances, though they depict starkly different scenes. “Opportunity” depicts a lush fruit tree and the hazy background represents the uncertainty of the future, a reminder to celebrate what we are given, according to Janes. “Fresh Meat”, on the other hand, depicts the brutality that life sometimes gives to us, with a gory depiction of a pig in butcher’s clothing carrying the corpse of another pig. “Fresh Meat” also depicts the feelings Janes has in the immediate aftermath of her father’s death.

“It’s kind of haunting — you were real and now you’re just a body,” Janes said. “And it’s so crazy, surreal, more than anything.”

The artist’s work also features her interests in daily life. Other pieces among the “Sugar and Violence” collection include several references to media like “Red Dead Redemption 2”, “Animal Farm” and even “Rick and Morty”. There’s also plenty of pieces about her personal life, her husband and pets.

Janes’ hope for the selection is that her art connects to the audience’s emotions, which she believes has been successful.  Janes said that she is glad to have comforted others about their own experiences with loss.

“I have been blown away at the number of people that have come up to me, some in tears after looking at my show, and it’s helped them remember or process some difficult memory or some person that they’ve lost in their life, or know they’re going to lose soon,”  Janes said.

Janes said her experience as a stylist has helped her in her first artistic venture and is grateful that her experience as a hairstylist gave her connections into the art world of Waco. Jane went on to say that she is hopeful for increased representation among marginalized groups and artists working in the Central Texas area.

“I think it is vital to invite these people into spaces of opportunity, and to seek them out. It is equally important to bring these resources to underrepresented individuals when they feel vulnerable, uncomfortable or unwelcome,”  Janes said.

The closing reception and Artist Talk will be hosted the evening of June 26. For those seeking to admire Janes’ work for themselves, the “Sugar and Violence” will be open to the public until June 28. For more of Janes’ work, visit her Instagram.