Tuesday, December 06, 2011

TOP STORY >> Artist combines inspiration, faith

Leader staff writer

 Theresa Cates, a North Little Rock artist, is working on the next mural in a series of outdoor paintings for Keep Jacksonville Beautiful.

Cates is a case manager for the Department of Workforce Services in Jacksonville. She is also a member of the Evangelistic Ministries Church on Elm Street.

For the mural, she is planning to incorporate the soaring bird in the city’s logo, the state flag, and three church women in red, white and blue dresses carrying purses and Bibles.

Art is a way for Cates to find peace and express herself after being abused by her father as a child.

Her mother would draw stick figures on tissue paper, inspiring Cates to take up painting.

“It was a way to go to my happy place,” Cates said.

“In school, I would do the stick figures and add personalities to the women in the drawings, making them happy,” she said.

Many of the women in her paintings wear hats. Cates said for a black woman attending church, wearing a hat is her pride and glory. “It is the icing on the cake. Hats are fun, showing joy and beauty,” Cates said.

The church is another important aspect of Cates’ artwork.

“Church is what built me up and made me a better person. The church is like a hospital. You go in there with something, if you let it go there, you don’t come out with it. It is a medicine,” Cates said.

“The services are very active. It makes me feel better and gives me strength to keep going,” she said.

Some days Cates brings her easel to church and paints during the service. Other times she is working in her studio, either the dining room or garage.

“Music is important to me. I put on worship songs and paint. I’m able to go deep, adding movement and motion to the painting. Listening to the music helps me make the painting talk,” Cates said.

The Bible and angels are other religious themes in her art.

“Sometimes I feel like the ladies in the painting. They are what I am going through in my point in my life,” Cates said.

Cates is a self-taught artist.

“It is something that I sat down and decided to do. I went to Hobby Lobby and bought some acrylic paints. It dries fast. I sat down, played around for 30-minutes to see what they would look like,” she said.

Six years later Cates has her works on display and for sale at the Red Door Gallery off JFK Boulevard in the Park Hill area of North Little Rock.

She paints canvases, Christ-mas ornaments, platters and Bible covers.

Cates donates some of her work to the Heart Association and to Children’s Hospital.

“I like to support causes,” she said.

During Christmas she gives her paintings away at her church. She said she likes seeing the happiness in people’s faces.

She has heard others say the paintings take them back to how their aunts, families or church members once worshiped. They are fun, happy, joyful and colorful.

“I have people collect my works,” she said.

Cates said her children, Kevin, 24, Justin, 22, Tyler, 11, Michael, 18, and Hannah, 8, help in naming her paintings.

Next year Cates plans to paint more outside. She would also like to talk to people about painting and doing live painting demonstrations.