Helen Liu was born in southern Taiwan. Since leaving the country in 1972 with her parents, she lived in Jakarta and Bangkok and eventually came to study at the University of Oregon in 1977. After graduating from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Helen worked in advertising and design firms in Portland and Eugene. When her daughter was born in 1994, Helen worked from home, and over time changed from working in advertising and graphic design to working on her own art.
Helen began using plastic bags at the end of 2013, though she has worked with a number of more "conventional" materials, such as charcoal, pencil, pastel, tempera, oils and Chinese ink. Helen began saving plastic bags since 2011 after returning from a 10-month long stay in her native Taiwan where there was and still is a strong re-use culture.
When the opportunity arose to create a large backdrop for Laura Wayte's recital at the University of Oregon, Helen jumped at the chance to use the plastic bags in her stockpile. The bags were sanded, painted with oil colors, and collaged together to make the 20ft by 12ft painting. At the end of the recital, the painting was cut into 3ft by 3ft pieces and given away to members of the audience in exchange for donations to BRING Recycling, a local recycling organization.
Helen received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Design from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in 1984 and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from the University of Oregon in 1990. Helen co-authored Up in Flames: the Ephemeral Art of Pasted-Paper Sculpture in Taiwan, which was based on her MA thesis and published by Stanford University Press