Artist of the Week: Brooke Martin

 

Brooke Martin is an athlete with the University of Utah track team. Known for her athleticism and commitment to her sport and team, Martin is well respected — but she has another life. She likes to refer to it as having two separate identities. On a daily basis, you can find her in the arts building working towards her bachelor’s in fine arts in visual art. She has one life on the track and another behind the canvas. Martin has had two projects recently installed in the arts building. Lauren McCluskey, her teammate, was the inspiration for her first piece. The second piece is also connected — a narrative on the realities of domestic violence here in Utah. Martin’s story is one of passion, bravery and a need to express through the best way she knows how — art. 

“Sometimes, if I lack the words to explain what I’m feeling, painting helps to communicate some of those feelings,” Martin said. Art allows her to be her true self. She found it at a young age, and it has since grown to become her career. Growing up, Martin could often be found painting or drawing. By the age of 15, Martin began taking her craft more seriously. “I really used it to kind of take away from track a little bit,” she said. Martin had found a way to express her thoughts. She had her art now and didn’t have to worry about her running statistics and physical ability. Martin’s love of art is a prime example of the need for multiple forms of self-expression.

 

Dachshund Installation

(Courtesy Brooke Martin)

“It was domestic [violence] awareness month, October, and it is a very important month to me for a lot of reasons,” Martin said, “One being losing my teammate last year, Lauren McCluskey.” With this fueling her, Martin created her dachshund installation. This piece meant a lot to Martin and represented the epidemic of domestic violence in Utah. In paint colors and with straightforward words, the piece effectively portrayed the problem of domestic violence. It was on display for about a month in the arts building. It was recently taken down for Martin to go present it to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. 

The piece consists of 32 dachshund outlines. Martin chose this dog because she feels a sense of home, safety and love when referencing the breed. She has some at her own home and she finds them to be a sort of safe haven. In the piece, each dog represents the number of deaths due to domestic violence in Utah in 2018. The ones colored in black represent the adult homicides related to domestic violence. In memory of McCluskey, the hashtag #ForLauren is placed on one of the dogs. A quote sits in the center of the piece and reads, “’Since 2000 at least 42% of adult homicides in Utah were domestic violence-related’ – Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.” These items and their message are all laid out on one full length, clear shower curtain, representing the environment of a home. It portrays the reality that for some, even home can be a dangerous place.

Martin saw these numbers and found an artistic way to represent them. She researched the statistics and found percentages. In turn, she discovered the U.S. average for adult homicides from domestic violence is 30%. Utah’s is 42%. “It was to get people to kind of see the epidemic of domestic violence in Utah,” Martin said. A change needs to happen, and for Martin, art can facilitate this change.  

 

Lauren McCluskey

Along with the dachshund piece, Martin created a portrait for McCluskey. She used ripped and torn black paper to create the portrait. It covered a large section of the wall on the third floor of the arts building. In the right-hand corner, the portrait reads, “Say her name.” It serves as a reminder for students. “It’s not meant to be a fear tactic,” Martin said. “It’s just that this happened to her and she deserves justice.” Truth is vital to Martin, and she wants there to recognize all that has happened. “We just get to go to class every day, things that she should have been able to do.”

The mural was hung in a regularly occupied hallway of the arts building. Martin knew she was keeping McCluskey’s memory and story alive by putting it in a frequently seen place. “I miss her,” Martin said. “Every student deserves to wake up and not fear that they’re going to die that day on their campus.” 

“I will not stop acknowledging [McCluskey’s death] until any form of justice, which will never be enough, can be served,” Martin said. Through time spent in advocacy work regarding domestic violence, Martin has discovered her passion. As part of her mission, Martin is finishing her senior year with a new chapter of life. “I feel that law school would benefit me. It would give me a bit more vocabulary and context for what I am arguing for the change I would like to make,” Martin said. This next year, she will be attending law school. While studying law and learning the necessary words and skills, she will make herself even more well-rounded and prepared for her fight. Through hard work, we will see Martin’s message and heart truly overcome and make a change.

“We can’t sweep [domestic violence] under the rug,” Martin said. “It’s part of the culture here.” It is our responsibility to also support and fight for what is right. We can not ignore the numbers and truth Martin is trying to show us — if not for our safety, then for the memory of Lauren McCluskey.

#ForLauren

 

a.raasch@dailyutahchronicle.com

@AbigailRaasch

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