February 22, 2021

Creating a Perspective: Yvonne Julian

A self-described “hobbyist painter” since her early 20s, Yvonne Julian signed up to take a watercolor class several years ago after hearing about GCCA from friends Jim Gorman and Carrie Burns Brown, and she hasn’t stopped since. In 2019, she joined the GCCA Board of Directors and is now Vice President, as well as an avid painter who is continually honing her craft. “The quality of GCCA’s product and the passion, commitment, and competence of the founders made me want to get involved,” she says.

As a girl growing up in Chicago, Yvonne dreamed of becoming a scientist, not an artist. “The first toy I ordered from the comic book store was a rocket ship you glued together, and I was always growing bean plants in the window of our high-rise apartment.“ she says. Yet she always admired her brother, who she calls “the family artist.”

Yvonne earned a college degree in chemistry and a Master’s in Business Administration before launching her career at Dow Chemical Co. in California, where she worked in manufacturing for many years before retiring and eventually moving to Greenville, SC. Her educational background has led to a keen interest in exploring the connections between art, science, and mathematics.

Yvonne is currently creating a watercolor piece she calls Prisoner of Time. “The painting addresses two ideas I find interesting—chronometry and inevitability, and also the appeal of a personal space for intellectual pursuits,” she explains. “The title conveys the passage of time as a resource we cannot get back or hold on to, and the image depicts a man chained to an hourglass.”

Yvonne believes art is a vital platform to share and express a variety of perspectives. When asked about her thoughts on the role of the arts in promoting racial equity and amplifying Black voices, she explains, “I think that the arts have had and can continue to have a huge impact in emphasizing the critical role that Americans who descended from slaves played in building the foundation of our country—whose contributions are symbolic of the American story and our country’s ideals.“ She explains, “GCCA should make people aware of a broader spectrum of Black American artists like James Van Der Zee, Edmonia Lewis, and Dox Thrash—to offer perspectives that they may not see in today’s mainstream Black art arena. As a community art center, it’s important to show artwork that depicts common experiences shared by people, particularly in certain regions. I shared some black and white photographs of people in Appalachia with my mother and she was shocked because due to segregation and being raised poor in the South, she had only experienced seeing poor Blacks and whites with means. She had never seen whites in a similar economic situation as the way she was raised.”