Julia Stoops was born in Samoa to New Zealand parents. Her childhood was spent in Japan, Australia and New Zealand, then she moved to the USA at the age of sixteen.
Her BFA with a focus in painting and installation is from the Corcoran College of Art in Washington, D.C. She returned to New Zealand where she gained a BA in philosophy and linguistics from the University of Auckland. In 1994 Julia moved to Portland, Oregon, and later earned an MFA in painting at Portland State University. She is a recipient of Oregon Arts Commission fellowships in both art and literature, and was a Ucross Foundation resident in 2016.