"I will never sugarcoat. I will never apologize."
Zaya Helen is an emerging visual artist who has utilized numerous mediums including painting, video, and artistic activism as a means of expression and personal resolution. Born in New Brunswick, NJ, Zaya grew up in Franklin Township, NJ where she currently resides. She is a Painting Major at the Savannah College of Art and Design expected to graduate in 2021.
Raised in the melting pot that is Franklin Township, she was immersed and surrounded by rich diverse cultures and people that helped her view the world from a very inclusive and accepting perspective. This upbringing shaped the moral compass that Zaya continues to live by while magnifying the glaring atrocities of the rest of America. It’s in her work that she highlights these problems that encompass a variety of issues such as suicide, racism, sexual violence, homophobia, white supremacy, drug abuse and discrimination.
Zaya was selected to be Art in the Atrium’s scholar in 2017, an organization founded specifically to provide a venue for African American artists to show their work. Her work was featured in their annual exhibit, Lift Every Voice. She is one of three members of the Cumshot Artist Collective which focuses on self-promotion, giving voice to women artists and constantly participating in institutional critique.
I am a product of gay love and multiracial relationships. My practice focuses on narrating the way I view the world in its totality. My upbringing strongly informs my work as I was raised to have an open, progressive, and accepting outlook towards groups of people and individuals. I create work that directly relates to my thoughts, fears, and opinions about socially pressing issues.
My work is inspired and driven by my childhood as my first experiences with trauma, pain, and triumph were within my family. By watching the people I love suffer and succumb to racism, discrimination, drug abuse, systemic hate, depression, and poverty amongst other problems, I realized these were issues that plagued other individuals, families, towns, America and overall, our world. The ways in which the American system has failed and marginalized countless people through oppression, discrimination, and hate are focal points that I choose to exploit in my art. I use myself and family members as subjects in my work to help me process my childhood trauma while simultaneously revealing the parallel between my life and the atrocities, injustices, and hate existing within America and our world.
Born 1999 New Brunswick, NJ
Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA (expected graduation 2021)
2020- present, ZKGCreations, Somerset NJ
2019 Crew Member, Maple Street Biscuit Company, Savannah GA
2018 Intern, Artist Bisa Butler, West Orange NJ
2016 Customer Service, Cici’s Pizza North Brunswick
2020- SCAD Open Studio
2020 Cumshot UNdefineD Art, Savannah GA
2018 Lift Every Voice, Art in the Atrium Annual Exhibition, Morristown NJ
Honors and Awards
2020- Vera Howard Simpson Education Scholarship
2017-Present, Dean’s List, Savannah College of Art and Design
2017-Present, Achievement/ Academic Honors Scholarships, Savannah College of Art and Design
2017-Present, FMI Scholarship
2017-Present, Art in the Atrium Scholar
2017- Dream Pool Foundation Scholarship
Franklin High School, Somerset NJ
Private Collection, Somerset NJ