I've been creating art in one form or another my entire life. I was born in Washington, D.C. in 1966, and in the 1970s our family settled in San Jose, California. I took art classes from the San Jose Museum of Art, and ballet classes from many schools in the area including my public high school, Independence High.

Throughout this time my parents took us everywhere, including AIM rallies, art galleries, films, camping and hiking in the high country (Yosemite, Big Sur). When I graduated, I auditioned for and was accepted into the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Professional Division. I had an injury, which led to a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis years later.

So I went to San Francisco State University, studied art and French in France (mainly the Provence region), and painted on the side.

It wasn't until years later (after a marriage and divorce and living in San Francisco and Boulder Creek), that I finally landed next to my family, who had all settled in Nevada City, California. As I am disabled with Multiple Sclerosis, I have trouble with movement and can't move as I used to, but the joy I have found in creating my art full time again has revived me. I started a community art gallery in Nevada City at the Miners Foundry Cultural Center in 2016, where local Nevada County artists can show their work. I returned to working full time at my art, and discovered my absolute love of clay and figurative sculpture. I have been showing my paintings at various places in Northern California and the Bay Area, including online exhibitions at the De Young Museum (San Francisco) and the Triton Museum of Art (Santa Clara).

In 2022, I received several grants enabling me to travel to Mexico City to study the work of Frida Kahlo at her home, Casa Azul, and ancient art at the Anthropology Museum. It was that which brought me to my current studies and work, bringing in the culture of my father's family in Oklahoma. I am a registered Oklahoma Choctaw and registered Choctaw Artist, and this new work is focusing on indigenous women of North and Central America.

My current teacher, Master Sculptor Deborah Bridges lives and works in Grass Valley, California, and my mentor, painter and sculptor Jennifer Rugge lives and works in Nevada City, California, where I have my current home and studio. These days, I work mainly with handmade paint and pigment, naturally dyed cloth, and clay.

In January 2024, I received a 2024 Fellowship from the First Peoples Fund to create a new body of work.

My work this year is titled 'Mujeres Divinas: Indigenous Women of North and Central America', Each woman I have chosen (and will choose) has done something to not only further her education of the earth and what she can bring to it, but also to her community. For example, I am featuring the work of Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo) and her sculpture as well as her horticultural work (cultivating native plants indigenous to that area) to assist her tribe in maintaining their health. Each woman will have her work honored with a sculpture and a wall hanging, showing what she does and what it brings to her community.

I plan to continue this project into next year, as there is a lot to do. I will be traveling to Oklahoma, New Mexico and Mexico City this year as a part of this work, which will result in an exhibit and accompanying book.

Thank you for being here, Yakoke!

Juliette Morris Williams
Registered Choctaw Artist
2024 Business and Leadership Fellow, First Peoples Fund