Leigh Brooklyn: Creating A Women's Empowerment Movement

Leigh Brooklyn: Creating A Women's Empowerment Movement


Leigh Brooklyn is a figurative artist living and working in Cleveland. Her work largely centers on raising awareness of marginalized and underrepresented communities and people. Learn more about the story behind her militia women series, encouraging women to find their inner warrior.

A couple years ago I did a painting of a friend in a militia outfit that she created of her favorite comic book character, "Tank Girl". The piece ended up being more about gun violence in America as she held a gun with a target on her shirt, but she had a presence. She looked so strong and powerful in that painting that when it hung in a gallery a little girl came up to me and said, "I want to be like that when I grow up". In all honesty, I did too. Her statement meant something to me. It meant that my art was impacting people, especially young girls and women. And it also meant that this little girl did not want to be a princess and she did not want to be rescued. She wanted to be strong and powerful and take on the world. As women, we do not see enough images of powerful females in the media or in our popular culture.

In late 2019 my personal life took a turn for the worse and I had to leave my home, losing my dogs and the security that I once knew. I became ill and I needed surgery. I needed a support system and that's when I turned to my female friends. I needed to surround myself with an army of strong women to encourage and uplift me. I knew I wasn't alone in that need. A lot of women have faced their own personal battles and they're still standing and still fighting. They too yearned for a sisterhood of support and to see more powerful women in our society. I became more motivated than ever to create a women's movement through my art. I wanted to create an army of strong empowered women who supported one another. That's when I created the women's militia.

I began photographing my female friends and other strong women, interviewing them, hearing their stories and their battles. I dressed them up as soldiers for the movement and we'd go to abandoned areas in urban landscapes to shoot the images that I would later paint.

Something would happen when they put on the wardrobe of old military boots and helmets. They stood tall and they felt empowered. Their facial expressions changed; they were ready to fight for women. It was incredible. This women's movement that I want to create will go beyond paintings. It will help unite women and it will give more little girls somebody powerful to look up to.