Born in Berlin in 1951 to father Werner Ernst Strelau and mother Gerda Gertrud “Bargel” Strelau, Renate Strelau was encouraged and motivated by her parents’ emphasis on raising her and her brother equally—Klaus Strelau is now a continuing lecturer in the philosophy department of the University of California, Berkeley—during a time when male children were prioritized. Coming to the United States with her family in 1960, she began undergraduate study at UC Berkeley in 1969. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science at UC Berkeley in 1974.
Ms. Strelau then began graduate studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., and achieved a certificate in Arabic language proficiency (written and oral) from Johns Hopkins University in 1976. She became a research assistant at the Iranian Embassy in Washington, D.C., a position she held from 1976 until 1980, the day the United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran. Grasping the revolutionary fervor, Ms. Strelau could counsel nuclear caution. She earned a Master of Arts in American history (diplomacy) and a Master of Fine Arts (painting and human figure) from American University in Washington, D.C., in 1985 and 1991, respectively.
Alongside her work in political science, diplomacy, and American history, Ms. Strelau is an accomplished artist who excels in painting, drawing and sculpture. She has combined her love of history, art and travel to create a number of imaginative interdisciplinary works as she thinks on how art can impact society and international relations. One particular period she focuses on is the abstract expressionism movement that emerged in the United States during World War II and the impact that this movement had on cultural and artistic history.
Ms. Strelau presented her path-breaking work at international scholarly conferences in 1995 (Annapolis, Maryland) and 2007 (Minneapolis, Minnesota) and concluded that art is more powerful than war. Abstract expressionism really captured the core ideas of her research and art in ways that other studies of hers had not. With her first one-woman show occurring at Café Espresso in Berkeley in 1973, her artistic career really took off after she earned her painting degree in 1991.
Ms. Strelau had a one-woman show at Riggs Bank in Arlington, Virginia, from 1994 to 1995. She exhibited at a Khoja Gallery group show in Arlington, Virginia, in 2002, and she went on to have a one-woman show with the Bank of America Corporation in Arlington, Virginia, from 2004 to 2005. Other exhibits ensued. Notable is a 2015 International Art Exhibit group show in Puttaparthy, India, where her portrait photography appeared in a large montage overlooking nature. Her drawing of a rose resides at the American University Museum, Washington, D.C.
In the late 1990s, when the South Korean martial art tae kwon do became an Olympic sport, Ms. Strelau’s grandmaster in Reseda, California, suggested she compete in tae kwon do tournaments. Since 2017, as taught by world champions, Ms. Strelau has competed in kung fu and in wushu at international martial arts tournaments in the United States. In 2020, her research, “Time in History: China’s Martial Arts, DaVinci’s 1519 Death, and United States Diplomacy,” was scheduled for presentation at a global scholarly conference in Portland, Oregon.
Looking toward the future, Ms. Strelau intends to continue as she has been, studying history and making art, as well as doing wushu training and looking into history, particularly of Vietnam and China. She is currently researching the close connections of ballet to government in Russia. Her research on art’s power over war is now a political theory of beauty with roots in Chinese yin and yang. Ms. Strelau’s Reseda, California, garden is a refreshing respite for visiting praying mantis. She maintains professional affiliation with the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, where she is a lifetime member.