Artist Statement

I create abstract figurative paintings that center the emotional experience of Black women.  I am exploring what is seen and unseen, specifically how Black women can exercise their agency to reveal as much or as little as she chooses, both in terms of her physical body as well as her emotions.  My paintings are emotional portraits that examine the nuances of what it means to engage in self-care and healing.


Creating in layers is an important part of my creative process.  Using a combination of brushes, palette knives, paper towels, pigment sticks, stencils, and more, the final image is forged from mistakes, intentional and unintentional marks, and layers that I was convinced were final until they weren’t.  By emphasizing acceptance and nonjudgment in the process, I convey through the resulting image a sense of vulnerability.


I seek to be part of a dialogue about how Black women’s bodies and emotions are under constant scrutiny as we are frequently reduced to a stereotype, even some that are meant to be flattering.  This is particularly true as Black women navigate predominantly white, male spaces.  By presenting the human body in a nude, yet abstracted, form, I am pushing back against the ubiquitous sexualization of the female form, while at the same time giving the woman the choice to reveal herself as she wishes.


My inspiration comes from Black writers and poets, specifically the poem, “Listen, Children,” by Lucille Clifton.  Ms. Clifton’s poem reminds children-- and urges them to share-- that Black women love themselves “all ways.” 



Julie Atkinson began painting after working in business and then as a lawyer.  What began with an impromptu purchase of a set of watercolor paint quickly grew into a passion for exploring the human figure and emotions through the colors and texture of oil paint.  Her art education comes from self-directed online courses as well as from local community centers.  She is deeply grateful to all the artists she met in these communities for their advice and encouragement.  Julie's work has been included in several online exhibitions and at the Jacoby Art Center in Alton, Illinois.  She has been long listed for the Doncaster Art Fair in Doncaster, U.K., and for the Women United Art Prize.  In 2022, Julie's work will be on display in the Art of the African Diaspora exhibition at the Richmond Art Center in Richmond, California, and in the Black Creativity exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois.


Julie lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.