Dreaming in colors
Lenoir folk artist Theresa Gloster says everything is subject to be painted. Her house off Old North Road is testament to that philosophy, which has guided her art over the years.
“Wood, clothes, furniture, dishes, anything that is old, I use to paint on,” Gloster said.
The inside of her home comes alive with vibrant colors on the many pieces of art hanging from her walls. Her yard is strewn with her artwork: old bicycles, wrought iron sculptures, painted benches and lawn furniture and even a wine bottle archway.
“People often stop by to see what it is,” Gloster said.
Gloster is a memory artist, a self-taught painter whose works chronicle her childhood years growing up in Bushtown in Caldwell County. Born in a West Virginia mining camp, Gloster moved to the foothills of North Carolina at age 5 to live with her grandparents in a household that included 12 children.
But her art is a recent phenomenon. She started painting in 1997, when she said a prayer asking for a new direction in her life, a creative outlet to add to her skills as a beautician.
“I wanted to learn something other than what I know,” Gloster said. “For three weeks, I got up every day looking for something different. I was watching TV and saw a painter. I said, I can do that, and a voice said, ‘What could you paint?’ I decided I would paint my childhood.”
With no formal art training, Gloster used whatever paints she could get her hands on, including house paint found in a hardware store. Her journey as an artist began.
Gloster draws on her memories for inspiration.
“I like to show how life used to be growing up,” Gloster said.
One painting depicts three beds with three children asleep. Another painting is of a truck rumbling down a dirt road with children packed in the bed of the truck. A wall in her living room is a mural showing the small houses she remembers growing up, with neighbors hanging laundry out to dry and children playing.
Her artwork has been on display at the Caldwell Arts Council and the Art in Healing Gallery at Caldwell Memorial Hospital, as well as inside the House of Blues in Orlando, Fla., and other galleries throughout the U.S. Her artwork has been purchased worldwide, and has been described as breathtaking in its ability to tell stories and its liberal use of colors.
Her art chronicles a life lived through segregation a time that she describes as one of collective transcending. The images are described as being neither overly romantic nor overtly critical, but simply tying together the lived threads of history, inspiration and artistry.
As Gloster puts it, her art shows how life used to be. But her art is also a higher calling.
“Regardless of how hard life was, I saw good,” Gloster said. “But it’s not about me. My art represents the gift to me from God, to glorify Him. That’s what I do.”