Sterling’s work often utilises scenes of food to subtly critique racialised ways of seeing. The table composition in People Are Very, Very Odd About It, 2021, acts as a symbol for the everyday, and allows us to reflect on how we are confronted by racialised discourse on a day-to-day basis. Even the typically joyful environment of a birthday party is encoded with structures of othering and difference. Each print has been hand-finished by the artist with letters annotating the various colours of the scene, from the skin tones to inanimate objects. By drawing our attention to the colours in her pictures, Sterling forces us to consider how as a society we tend to view race in simplified, narrow terms and the biases that are born out of this way of seeing.
Recalling the cartoon etchings found in the Victorian-era satire magazine "Punch" or the prints of William Hogarth, "People Are Very, Very Odd About It" is a contemporary take on a genre scene. The interior depicts a classic British children’s birthday party spread, complete with all the familiar sweet and savoury snacks. The star of the show is the caterpillar cake, a treat synonymous with birthdays, popular with children and nostalgia-fix-seeking adults alike. One lucky attendee gleefully holds the decapitated head of the caterpillar cake aloft, while the body of the chocolate invertebrate sits nestled between pink wafers, "fizzy pop", humus, cut vegetables and fruit. The different elements of party food spark feelings of nostalgia, with the sticky sweetness of Cherryade recalling the shoe-sucking dance floors of primary school discos and the clichéd and often-ignored dry carrots, celery and dip representing the vain attempts of parents to insert some nutrition into an otherwise sugar-filled, cheery cornucopia.