Mildred Beltré Martinez | Brattleboro Museum & Art Center | Shows | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Mildred Beltré Martinez

When: Through June 12

“Between Starshine and Clay” is the title of Mildred Beltré Martinez’s exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. Those unfamiliar with its origin might find it charmingly enigmatic. Looking around the gallery, though, a viewer could think the phrase is a prettier way to suggest “everything under the sun.” That’s because the artist finds expression in a broad array of mediums and materials: painting, prints, installation, hooked rugs, cross-stitch, even human hair. The collection is colorful, graphic, dynamic and sprinkled with surprises. However, Beltré Martinez is not going for whimsy. In fact, she borrowed the phrase “between starshine and clay” from the 1993 Lucille Clifton poem “won’t you celebrate with me.” The poet writes that she was born “both nonwhite and woman.” And what does Clifton celebrate? That “everyday / something has tried to kill me / and has failed.” Beltré Martinez lives in Brooklyn, where she cofounded a public art project called Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine. Her teaching career has included positions at the University of Vermont and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has exhibited widely, including in a show at Burlington’s BCA Center in 2013. Beltré Martinez addresses her inspiration for “Between Starshine and Clay” in an artist statement. “Clifton talks about willful self-awareness and the ways in which cultural context influences the cobbling together of an identity,” Beltré Martinez writes. “Specifically, she is celebrating that for Black women, the formation of self is an act of resistance and resilience.” This exhibition combines pieces from two of the artist’s concurrent series: “Skin in the Game” is essentially self-portraits in which the artist uses walnut ink to create a variety of brown tones; she writes that these figurative pieces “began as a way to think about risk.” The second series, “Slogans for the Revolution That Never Was” includes text-based pencil and ink works, in which the letters are largely obscured; they might be “read” instead as grid-based abstractions. The revolution is disguised. There is no mistaking the message in a brightly colored pair of hooked rugs: “We Already Are.”