portrait by Simbarashe Cha for The New York Times
Sally Helmi (b. 1993) is an Egyptian-American artist, curator and nurse who practices and lives in Newark, NJ. Helmi was born in Bayonne, NJ, the daughter of two Coptic immigrants. She was educated in the public schools of New Jersey and completed a BSN from William Paterson University in 2015. Throughout her studies Helmi worked as a Patient Care Assistant and in 2015 transitioned to provide care as a Registered Nurse, working at a trauma hospital. The artist is passionate about exceptional and humanistic care and has compassionately provided nursing care in a wide array of hospital settings. Marrying their practice in nursing and visual art, Helmi's recent works explore and reframe the use of the nursing process; her mixed-media collages embrace an anatomical and medically-inspired visual language that narrate the dynamic stages of healing, centered on studying themes of caretaking and touch. In 2018 she joined a residency at Index Art Center, where their current studio practice is located. Helmi exhibited her first solo show in 2019, Intimately Held: Safe-Keeping through Touch at Index Art Center. Helmi is active in the community of Newark, NJ and has organized and curated exhibitions and wellness events that aim to be accessible to the public. In 2021, she joined the inaugural cohort of Dark Study, a virtual and experimental year-long program centered on art. Mentorship is an essential part of nursing; Helmi has precept nurses throughout her work and in 2019 she joined NYFA as an artist mentor for their Immigrant Artist Mentorship Program in Newark, NJ. In 2021, she joined First Tech Fund, supporting and advising photography to underserved youth students in Brooklyn, NY. Helmi's work has been shown at Index Art Center, Gallery Aferro, Visual Art Center of NJ, Art Factory Studios. Helmi's work has been profiled and featured in the New York Times, Allure, NY Post, Scarlet Magazine and LAND Collective.