The Writing on the Wall,
The Art of Theresa Cheek
By Derrick White
Murals have existed as long as people can remember. They have served as a form of evidence of life from prehistoric times to modern day. “From the cave paintings at Lascaux Grottos in southern France to the street art murals of today, people have been leaving signs of their own existence in many places around the world. It is because of the earliest scratching, carvings, etchings and paintings, that we now have priceless knowledge of history and predecessors. These murals hold great significance for all of mankind. They depict life activities, every day scenery, and some religious traditions of the time period that they were created; giving us an invaluable look of the diversity of cultures during different periods.
“Over the course of time, murals have covered interiors and exteriors of many public buildings (i.e., palaces, temples, tombs, museums, libraries, churches, and the houses of wealthy art patrons), spreading onto the streets and architectural elements more recently, all the while keeping their initial meaning and purpose: to paint a picture of society, created from stories, values, dreams, and change,” writes Angie Kordic in her article “Mural.”
Tyler artist, Theresa Cheek, creates many murals among her repertoire of work. Theresa earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in art history from the University of Texas and an Associate’s degree in Art from TJC. “I have always been fascinated with obscure techniques and have studied with various artists from Italy, France, and the United States on verre eglomisé (a French term for the process of applying both a design and gilding onto the rear face of glass to produce a mirror finish), egg tempera (a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium, usually egg yolk), fresh paint, gilding, and mural work,” states the artist. Theresa has served a three year presidency term with the International Decorative Artisans League and is currently on the board of the Arts and Humanities Council of East Texas (AHCET). She is currently a member of “Salon,” a prestigious international group of decorative artisans with a purpose of learning, preserving and handing down long-standing techniques.
“I am a decorative artist, not a fine artist. That simply means I specialize in ornate, decorative borders, trompe l’oeil (a visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional), gilding and other techniques used as embellishments in churches and other historical buildings. Although original sketches are done, most work involves copying various motifs and designs from the past. Most recent works include Saint Edwards Catholic church sanctuary and courtyard and restoration on the First Presbyterian church in downtown Dallas,” explains the artist, adding, “I also make marbled papers for bookbinders and other creative uses.”
In explaining her techniques, Theresa says, “Although I do use commercial acrylics, oils, and 23k gold leaf, I also concentrate on 14th century techniques and make my own egg tempera, fresh pigments, and oils, along with gesso and casein.”
Theresa’s business name is Art’s the Answer. She believes this is true for so many things in life. Art can heal as well as be a unifying universal language for civilization. “Art gives my life balance and purpose as well as a solace from stress,” avows the artist. In addressing the frustrations of her artistic pursuits Theresa states, “If you know me, you know my work is very laborious, involving many steps and a myriad of chemicals and pigments. In an age of instant gratification through the internet, younger patrons do not necessarily appreciate the process or labor behind each project and the price point it carries.”
Theresa Cheek finds inspiration from classical master artist, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (a Rococo and Baroque Italian painter and printmaker). She enjoys his use of scale, color and his depictions of Venice. Contemporary decorative influences include Carlo Marchiori, renowned muralist, and Pascal Amblard, majestic landscape muralist with whom Theresa has studied.