DJ has encountered Jackson and HELP Foundation through his involvement with Marin Sheriff Department’s STAR (Support & Treatment After Release) Program. In spite of his difficult past and current adversities, DJ is one of the most talented and prolific artists that HELP Foundation has had the privilege of working with.
DJ was born near Sacramento, CA, but he spent most of his formative years in New York and Miami. He has been interested in painting, sketching and all forms of art since early childhood, but his artistic career really took off when he transferred to Performing Arts High School in Miami in his senior year. Tragically, that was also the year when DJ’s mother passed away and he channeled his grief, loss and depression into an impressive and haunting art portfolio.
When the school held a college fair, a recruiter from the San Francisco Art Institute (one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious schools of higher education in contemporary art) was deeply impressed with DJ’s talent and offered him a coveted spot in the Institute’s painting program. Thanks to a financial aid package, DJ was able to move to San Francisco, where he spent his college years living in a dorm and thriving in the open, experimental and interdisciplinary environment of the Art Institute.
He fondly remembers his college years, learning formal and technical skills while exploring the process of creation and the conceptual and emotional power of art. While DJ’s favorite medium was painting, he spent time experimenting with sculpture, welding, photography, film, illustration, collage and other visual art techniques to further broaden his experiences, artistic perspective and skill set.
DJ graduated in 1993 with a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute’s Painting Department. After a short stint as an usher at San Francisco’s longest running musical revue “Beach Blanket Babylon”, DJ went to work for his father’s advertising agency in Marin County, where he used his visual art skills to do production work, transferring paper designs into digital computer software.
The transition between art school and building a career marked a turning point in DJ’s life. He started feeling inexplicably depressed, losing his motivation for both work and art. He no longer felt creative or productive, and after he began hearing voices in his head, he was seriously worried about the state of his mental health. He quit the job at his father’s ad agency and started seeing a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with depression. DJ has been struggling with mental health issues for the past 13 years.
His life in San Francisco was surrounded by drugs, crime and bad influences. DJ decided to leave the city and try to have a new start in Marin. However, as his mental health deteriorated, he ended up homeless. Living on the streets contributed to his alcohol and substance abuse issues, and eventually led to his involvement with the criminal justice system. For a while, it seemed that despite all his talent and education, DJ’s life was taking a steady turn for the worse. Finally, after years of homelessness, he was placed in a Buckelew group home, where he has been living for the past two years. Because of his earlier lifestyle and his ongoing struggles with mental health challenges, DJ was eligible for the STAR (Support & Treatment After Release) Program (
While the strict requirements and mandates of the program ensure DJ’s compliance with the court orders, he is doing his best to re-enter the community and become a productive member of society. He has been participating in HELP Foundation’s trips and activities, including the weekly Coffee Club and YMCA gym membership program. We are delighted to witness DJ’s progress as he works to maintain sobriety, with bravery he faces his mental health challenges and continues to develop his creativity and artistic vision. Also, DJ is a very responsible and reliable dog walker.
DJ has recently started teaching an art class in the group home where he resides, hoping to inspire his roommates to draw, paint and express themselves creatively through art. He would like to show his art in public venues. Selected pieces are currently available for sale through HELP Foundation’s website and DJ is always looking for new places to display his artwork.
About DJ’s artistic process
“I make art to express my creative energy, especially with the use of colors and shapes. My work is the outcome of free association, with minimal forethought given to any particular design. As I start drawing, the notion of specific shapes, marks and patterns slowly emerges through the organic, creative process, which I call "cultivated randomness".
For example, I'll start with one color, and the thrill and excitement I experience while drawing will spontaneously lead to applying more colors, discovering new shapes, employing different perspectives.
I especially enjoy drawing faces, which I see as “human masks” – there is something about the primitive origin of this process that evokes a deeply emotional response, the facial expressions giving a notion of power and psychological undertones to these pieces.
Since I grew up in three major cities (New York, Miami & San Francisco), my art reflects my urban upbringing, echoing the vibrant energy, colors, shapes and aromas of those cities. Some of my pieces have a distinctive “graffiti-like” feel to them (I call this style “lettering”).
Creating art awakens my senses and leads me on a journey of self-discovery and wonderment.
I like how my art has developed over time, with experience, I work to progress to the next phase and improve the process.”
- DJ Golden, December 2013
Color pencil (lettering), oil pastel (faces).