Jacket Portrait (Robert Martin), 2021
acrylic and oil on stretched canvas
It was during my highschool years in Menomonie, WI when I first began exploring my style and gender expression in the most basic sense, though I didn’t have the language or understanding to recognize it. It started with a leopard print hoodie that my mom had bought but hardly wore––perhaps because it was always on me, or stuffed in my bookbag––but wasn’t long before I was slipping into her closet most mornings before school for her other vintage jackets and knit sweaters to wear over my white t-shirts. I repeatedly opted for a loose, ikat patterned jacket with Guatemalan coins pierced and knotted on the front as toggles. The pattern, I’ve learned, is made using binding and resist techniques; laborious and difficult, making it highly prized in many cultures around the world.
I don’t remember exactly when it was revealed to me––I know it wasn’t right away––but my mother at one point told me that the jacket belonged to Marty, and she received it after his death. Upon hearing so, I felt sorry, or perhaps ashamed. At the time, I think I felt that my exploration was soiling his memory, but my mother supported me in wearing it. Thinking back now, I’m not sure if the jacket was ever actually bestowed upon me, but it seemed that seeing the jacket brought back to life from the back of her closet brought my mom some sort of happiness.
Marty’s jacket is still with me today. I’ve never fully shaken the hesitancy I feel toward wearing it. Though, on momentous occasions, often related to my practice and career, I don the jacket like some queer armor.