Helen Liu was born in Taiwan and raised on a chicken farm in the southern part of the island. 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.
In 2013, Helen began using waste plastic bags generated from her own household as well as bags from local coffee shops. friends and neighbors. American Luminosity in 2014 was the first of these projects. Over the next 8 years, Helen’s art has focused on using these non-recyclable plastic waste. The largest one of the works from this period was Plastic Waste to Art Quilt, 40ft x 12ft, funded in part by the Springfield Arts Commission and displayed at the Academy of Arts and Academics in downtown Springfield on Earth Day 2021.
Helen is collaborating in a Plastic to Fuel project with Prof. Skip Rochefort at Oregon State University working toward creating a small-scale, neighborhood-size plastic recycling machine that will turn #2, 4, and 5 plastics into farm-grade diesel.
Helen’s project in 2021-2022 involves locally sourced wool from small farmers whom she personally knows, and dye plants grown in her garden. The fleece is cleaned, dyed and spun into yarn with a Navajo spindle and then woven.
With Prof. Ellen Johnston Laing, Helen co-authored Up in Flames: the Ephemeral Art of Pasted-Paper Sculpture in Taiwan, which was based on Helen’s MA thesis and published by
Stanford University Press in 2004.