Aya Brown is the young, Brooklyn-based artist championing essential workers through her artwork. Brown’s Essential Worker series, which she began back in April, broke the Internet. It was shared and reposted all across social media as people relished the collection of drawings that finally appreciated the Black women workers that are working on the front lines of a global pandemic. From MTA workers and teachers to local nurses, Brown’s aim lay in uplifting and bringing awareness to the hidden dynamics on the front line.
The simple realism of her portraits is what makes them so impressionable on the viewers. They’re drawn in by the relaxed nature of colored pencils on plain brown paper and include the most minute details of the essential worker’s own style, from the Nikes they wear to their signature hairstyles, as to convey their personal charisma and individualism. Brown’s art celebrates and commends the Black women who are doing the jobs we desperately need done in this crisis; one in three jobs held by women are essential and the majority of them are WOC. These past months Brown has teamed up with community collectives like Girls Only and Ghetto Gastro to sell apparel sporting her artwork, with the profits of the apparel going to local businesses and restaurants struggling in her native Brooklyn community.
Brown’s art practice also seeks to provide representation and a platform for queer black women and their sexuality and spectrum of experiences, including herself.
With a possible resurgence of Covid-19 this fall and winter season, essential workers are still as essential as ever and we must continue to do all we can to support and bring visibility to the champions holding our lives together, while they risk their own. Aya Brown does just this, particularly making sure these black and brown women are seen.
Follow Aya Brown on Instagram.