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Tuesday, July 7th: Aya Brown

Aya Brown

Today is Tuesday, July 7th

Hello everyone! Today we are looking at artist Aya Brown, a 24 year old Brooklyn illustrator who is creating portraits of Black women who work jobs deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic by the city of New York. The portraits are a part of her Essential Worker series, and the women are the ones who took care of her during a hospital visit or trip to a supermarket. One portrait is of her sister, Aja, a paraprofessional educator who works with Brooklyn fifth graders. Aja cried when she saw her portrait; “I just want my kids to get where they need to be emotionally and academically. I kind of don’t really think about myself.”

One in three jobs held by women is essential, and most of these women are women of color. Writer and director Tamara P. Carter says that when we look back on this historical moment “and wonder who saved New York City from the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Brown’s portraits will provide the answer". 

Curator Chaédria LaBouvier adds that though Ms. Brown has faced painful marginalization in art spaces, like the anti-Blackess she encountered at Cooper Union, “Ms. Brown’s work is not about being left out of the white, heterosexual, patriarchal art world, but about the Black working class saying, ‘I am already the center, and there is a lot of beauty here’”. Even Ms. Brown’s materials are selected with this intention; she chooses to draw on brown paper, because “Black bodies do not need to start from white”. Even before the portrait is there and the page is still blank, black is “already the center”.

You can view Aya Brown’s full Essential Worker serieshere and read more about her workhere.