Julianne Wallace Sterling

Julianne Wallace Sterling is a practicing and exhibiting artist, an elementary school art teacher and a mother who, along with her partner, has raised two children. The stories of the lives of women artists are many. Some women artists are individuals focused on their careers and they can be well-regarded and rewarded for those efforts. More often though, women artists shoulder multiple responsibilities, most commonly the care, nurture and support of others, as they struggle to maintain and develop their own practices and have their voices and perspectives heard. Their work is often about what it’s like to be a woman, to face obstacles and expectations, to be trivialized or ignored, and to work with others to build community. This is the kind of artist’s life that Julianne Wallace Sterling lives.

Julianne paints portraits and figures, mostly of women. She has been exhibiting her work in solo and group exhibitions, locally and nationally, since 2006. A committed feminist, she states, “I paint about the realities, complexities and absurdities of life as a woman. I draw from the rich history of portrait painting, creating a likeness but also exploring cultural norms and ideals of women in contemporary society.” In 2019, Sterling had a painting exhibited in The National Portrait Gallery’s triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. This oil and graphite on panel portrait, “Specialist Murphy” responded to the US Department of Defense announcement that starting in 2016, women would be able to serve in combat roles in the military. The shift toward equality in the military inspired Sterling to confront her own assumptions about what a combat soldier should look like.

The teaching of art to youth is vital to culture for many reasons. The arts inspire learning and help make traditional subjects more approachable for the greatest number of students which helps level the educational playing field for underserved students. They help engage students and excite them about the work they are doing in school, which in turn increases school attendance. The arts foster creativity and ingenuity and inspire success in the workplace. The arts build and bring together communities. For the last 5 years, Sterling has taught art to kindergarten through fifth grade students at Achieve Academy in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, CA.  She teaches about 350 students a year. She teaches the same students from kindergarten to fifth grade, building a strong relationship with them over time.

Julianne’s dedication to her own family, to creating a body of work focused on the roles of women in contemporary society, and her support of the education of local children of will strengthen our community for generations. 
--Kathleen King, artist, badass and founding member of Mercury Twenty Gallery in Oakland, CA