“The pieces that I create are a coping mechanism,” says artist Sachi Rome. “They are a way for me to manifest a space where I truly can feel safe without threat.”

Characterized by expressive features conveyed via bold colors, the abstract portraits of African America faces in her works evoke a sense of tranquility, strength, and mysticism. 

For Rome, the paintings are not just a means of creative expression. They are also a form of rebellion. Rome seeks to create safe spaces in her work, places where being Black is celebrated and supported. Within her paintings there is a sense of connection to that which is sacred and, in a departure from her experience as a Black woman in America, a distinct lack of prejudice and hostility.

“American existence is traumatic. The news constantly reminds you of all the dangers that everyday society holds for life in Black America. My everyday experiences remind me that I must pay attention to my world or it may destroy me and those I love. I can’t lose sight of America’s history.”

As a parent to two Black sons growing up in a time when Black people are at risk of serious harm or death for, well, just about anything, she is acutely aware of the dangers of existing while Black. A few years ago, Rome was involved in a project that highlighted Black people who were unjustly killed by police. She highlighted Koren Gaines and Atatiana Jefferson, two women who were killed within the supposed safety of their own homes. The project had a profound effect on Rome who couldn’t stop thinking about their stories for months. Rome wanted to believe in an America where it would be safe to exist while Black. 

“The direction of my work expanded to include not only portraiture but to encompass the space that these entities resided in. It became a wider conversation about existence. To truly breathe, free and be at peace. It did not exist in the world that I physically lived in so I created a metaphysical space where freedom and safety could be guaranteed.”

In Sachi’s world, being Black is not only acceptable but celebrated. There are connections to the sacred realm that is beyond the reach of human politics and prejudice. “Repetitive, radiating circles are one of oldest symbols in human existence,” explains Rome, who says the shape represents connection, time, and energy. “I use the radiating circles as markers to illustrate the connection of history and memory. Sprinkles of diamond dust flash like falling stars highlight and embody the magic and value of Black life and existence.”

Rome credits the build up of texture and rich color to inspiration from Louis Delsarte, someone she studied under at Morris Brown College. She also experienced some critical losses: her grandfather, a coach who was a father figure to Rome, as well as some students she knew. Grief overwhelmed and confused her, and through that darkness she began developing her style and artwork which has continued to evolve to this day.

Using acrylics, Rome utilizes unique tools to build texture and convey movement. Instead of paintbrushes, she might use a spatula or a credit card. She adds elements such as diamond dust and gelatin plate printing onto paper that she then collages. Working from her imagination rather than a photograph, her portraits evolve organically with every mark. 

“The work relies on instinct, trust and serendipity. I truly believe that the universe guides my hands and I am just channeling the essence of energy of those that seek to have presence in this space.” 

For more information, visit www.sachistudioart.com

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.