Juuri, a.k.a. Julie Robertson
Sacramento, CA 95819
She has two names and has two countries that she has called home. Born in Tokyo, Juuri (pronounced with a hard “R”), a.k.a. Julie Robertson, came to America with her Japanese mother and Japanese-American father at the age of 6. When it comes to her artwork, though, the 27-year-old goes by her more exotic moniker. And just like her own history, her work is a confluence of her two cultures, with delicately rendered young women on gilded and graphic backgrounds, a kind of contemporary version of Alphonse Mucha’s flourished style. The Norman, Oklahoma, resident was selected by Elliott Fouts Gallery’s for its August 40 & Under group show. SN&R had an opportunity to get to know the young artist.
You still have family in Japan. How often do you visit?
I try to go about once a year or once every two years. During college, I used to go every summer and just stay all summer.
What’s your art background?
I went to college [at Northeastern State University] for graphic design, actually. But I took some studio classes as well, and in order to graduate, we had to do a show—a senior art show, just like the fine art majors. So that’s where I learned a lot of my stuff. Before that, I had private art lessons from the time I was 13 until college, so 13 to 18.
I’ve heard it’s kind of flat in Oklahoma.
In eastern Oklahoma, where I went to school, it’s not that flat. It’s close to Arkansas, and there’s some hills there, rolling hills I guess they’re called. Here, close to Oklahoma City, it’s flat, but I’d like to think it’s not as flat as Kansas, which is flatter (laughs).
What’s the art community like there?
I guess I’m unusual here, because I’ve never heard of any other Japanese artists, except one [Japanese] girl that I’m friends with, but other than that, I’ve never heard of any other Japanese artists out here. … But everyone is really, really kind here; it’s a good thing. People are very supportive. I’ve never met anyone who’s tried to use [artists] in a bad way or extort money. So I guess my art is unique here.
That’s a good thing, no?
It’s also a bad thing, because it’s hard to find anyone who’s doing kind of a similar thing that I can talk to and identify with, but it’s OK.
That’s why God created the Internet.
Yeah! That’s how I’ve gotten into a lot of shows in Los Angeles.
Is that how you got the attention of Elliott Fouts, too?
Actually, they don’t remember how they found me. They emailed me to be in the show, and I asked Michelle [Satterlee] there how she found me, and she didn’t remember (laughs).
Are your art sales mostly in your hometown or through your Etsy page?
I’ve had some shows here and sold a few pieces, but most of my sales are out of state, some from people who’ve seen my Etsy page or people on my Facebook fan page. … Lots of international sales, too. For some reason, people in Australia really like my work.
You’ve got to go there, then.
Yeah, that would be great to have a show there. … I heard the style of art [that I do] is more popular in Europe and Australia. Of course, it started in L.A., so people there are used to it, but people in Europe are crazy about it and trying to get their hands on it, this American pop-surrealism kind of art, which I think is really cool.
Tell me about why you’re drawn to paint mostly females.
Females are always more popular subjects than males throughout history. I guess I just like drawing their big eyes and pretty mouth, and I’ve done a few guys, but it just gets so boring. I don’t know. Girls are prettier. They’re nicer to draw. And I think, with some of them, I am putting myself into them—maybe what I’m wishing for, what I’m thinking about, just translated into the female figure.
Talk about your influence on the abstract and kinetic elements—squiggles, copious drips and gold leaf?
I enjoy different kinds of art and definitely feel more comfortable doing figures, so it’s something new I’ve tried to incorporate. Because I enjoy nonobjective art so much, I don’t feel I’m very good at it, so I’m trying to combine those with the lines. It’s very fast, so if I don’t get it right the first time, I can’t redo it. So there’s that kind of excitement.
Are you an artist all of the time?
Right now I have a part-time day job. I’m a receptionist, which is actually working out well, because the people in my office really love my work, so when I’m not on a phone call or something, I can do art at my desk, paint things at my desk during the day.
Yeah, it’s really nice. Actually, my studio is part of my office. There was an area with a desk and shelf that wasn’t being used, so they said I could just set up a studio there.
You weren’t kidding about people being supportive.
Yeah, they’re really nice! They all say it’s nice to have art [in the office].
What kind of a company is it?
They make road-sweeper brooms!