Its difficult to measure the impact of any single person
within our art community. Whether it be their body of work, the causes they
support, projects they undertake, or any number of labors whether it be visual
or social. And very few touch all bases in the span of their careers. Today
we'll look at one who's managed to do all of the above.
--- Teresa Flowers has been an sustaining force, not just for local art in general, but for women artists and business as well. She was the mind behind the immensely popular Women's Art Center, been recognized the world over for her different styles of paintings and photography, has been active in the fight against AIDS, and still continues to produce work at an inspiring level. I got the chance to chat with Teresa about her artwork and career, the achievements she's made, thoughts on local art and so much more.
Gavin: Hey Teresa, first off, tell us a little about yourself.
Teresa: I am an illustrator and painter. I am a mermaid. I design apparel and accessories for my company Sleepictures. I love taking photographs and I have quite a body of work. I have collections of images, words, music, and old books; things that share their beauty and wonder. I own a miniature accordion. I have a shoe fetish. I like home cooked meals. I am an inventor of amazing hairstyles. I live for the tunes of Led Zeppelin. When I walk, I give flowers, trees and bushes high-fives all the way down the street. I like the sound of trains. I hate making my bed. I really like to laugh.
Gavin: What first got you into art, and what were some of your early inspirations?
Teresa: Ever since I was a little girl, drawing was really the only thing I was ever sure of. My mom was an artist and she always encouraged and supported my artistic spirit. I started getting recognition for my artwork in grade school when all of the children in class started collecting my drawings and taping them to the side of their desks. I was in love with the television show, ”I Dream Of Jeanie.” If you were a girl, I drew you a female version of Jeanie coming out of a bottle, with a ponytail on the top of her head. And if you were a boy, you got the male version with big muscles. That’s when the “artist” was born. In junior high and high school I continued to get recognition for my art. Early on, my inspirations were nature, fluorescent colors, jump roping, writing, acting, dancing, and plays. When I was in junior high and high school it was underground music, and going to underground music shows, skateboarding, snowboarding, dancing and boys.
Gavin: Did you seek out any kind of formal education in art? And how were those programs for you?
Teresa: After I graduated high school I started studying photography at the Salt Lake Art Center. Then I received Faculty Scholarships to attend the University of Utah. A lot of time was also spent working hands on with freelance photographers learning the ins and outs of photography. This work was invaluable to me as it provided experience you don't pick up at school. I was very driven, hard working and self-motivated. I produced a lot of work. I experimented with all sorts of film and format cameras. Working in the field with photographers was a better fit for my personality and more conducive to my growth as an artist opposed to being in the university environment.
Gavin: What made you choose to move to Utah?
Teresa: I have lived in Utah most my life and consider it my home. I moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago. I came back to Salt Lake temporarily last summer because I was experiencing severe health problems. I finally was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease after having been sick for a long time. My condition required extensive almost daily medical treatment. My support system was in Salt Lake so it only made sense to move back. My life seemed to be falling apart yet in the midst of all of that I unexpectedly fell in love. It was heartbreaking leaving the ocean, the culture, the art scenes, and the opportunity behind - but home is where I really needed to be.
Gavin: What were some of your first professional shows like when you broke out?
Teresa: I started doing a lot of art shows in 1995 when I was living and working at Art Space. I called that space The Red Gallery. I loved having creative control of the space because I was able to showcase more progressive minded work that wasn’t necessarily supported by Utah’s conservative minded environment. This brought a lot of attention to my work because it was unique and pushed boundaries. People responded with a lot of support. Through these experiences I made a lot of friends in the art community, which really helped launch my career as an artist. This opened opportunities for me to receive grants from The Utah Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. I also landed a show at The Salt Lake Art Center, which was a huge step in my career. I also realized I had an eye for curating shows and for bringing people together.
Gavin: You do a lot of mixed media pieces from photography to paintings. Why did you choose multiple formats instead of sticking to one?
Teresa: I grew up drawing and painting and had a traditionally trained eye. After high school I took a photography class and it just blew me away. It felt so magical being in a dark room watching the process come alive. From there I was hooked. I was able to use photography as a tool to express myself. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I had a voice and a purpose. I felt like there was a reason for all the hard things I was going through. Documenting and sharing my story was a big part of my healing. This process was very empowering for me. At the time I had a job where I didn’t have to do much work. I started making art with whatever supplies I had around, using anywhere from sugar packs, napkins, finger nail polish etc. I made small-scale intricate doodles with a lot of personality. This is an example of how I’m always creating something out of nothing it doesn’t matter what medium. These experiments helped me break free from the traditional ways I was trained. I concentrated more on using my imagination in a more playful and childlike manner. These little doodles brought me a lot of joy and I followed that bliss through the years, which ended up blossoming into my inherent unique style.
Gavin: Of all the forms you do, which would you say is your favorite and why?
Teresa: It switches up a lot, but right now I’m really into painting.
Gavin: What's it like for you seeing your work published in various publications?
Teresa: It’s just totally awesome!
Gavin: In 2003 you won Photographer Of The Year from the International Photo Awards. What was that whole experience like for you, and how has it impacted your career since?
Teresa: When I found out I was stoked for a week… but the actual experience was profound. I literally walked down the red carpet at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills where they perform the Emmy’s. I was escorted by two of my best friends and we were followed by the paparazzi! I sat at a table with one of my favorite photographers and was awarded among some of the best photographers in the world. I was one of the youngest women who won an award. It was one of my favorite moments of my life. I also won the People's Choice Award, meaning, people all over the world voted for my image over all the others who were involved. Now that’s truly amazing! Since then my work’s been shown all over the world. My work’s been published in books and magazines and is sought after by collectors.
Gavin: What influenced you to contribute proceeds of your work to Focus On AIDS?
Teresa: Focus On AIDS is one of the most prestigious photography auctions in the world. This subject is very close to my heart because my mother lived and died with AIDS. This gives me the opportunity to use my gifts to help other people in a similar situation I was in. That feels really good.
Gavin: How did the idea for the Women's Art Center come about?
Teresa: I started teaching art classes independently. My style of teaching really spoke to people and in turn they became very popular. I was in a class that was full to the brim and the students were asking “What’s next?” It was an emotional and inspiring moment. Instantaneously and with passion, I blurted out, “I’m starting a women’s art center!” The idea grew from there. The people from my classes volunteered to help get it off the ground.
Gavin: What was it like for you when it first opened up and the impact it made on the community?
Teresa: I’ve never been so inspired in my life. I felt like a strong leader with an amazing vision. I had an incredible team of women who helped me bring the vision to fruition. I created a center that encompassed everything I’d always wanted as a woman artist all in one place. It brought so many women together to celebrate and nurture our creative spirits.
Gavin: Why did you choose to move on from the Center, and what do you think of the work that was done after until their recent hiatus?
Teresa: I was experiencing very serious health problems at the time that really needed to be addressed. Resigning from the WAC was one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life. I knew if I didn’t take care of my health problems it could have been life threatening. Later I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease. To this day I still feel proud of everything I did there. I did my part, and I did my best, even through these health challenges. It’s sad to hear what has happened there after all of the work that has gone into it. However, I hope that the vision of the WAC will be remembered and be an inspiration to create new things. I also want to say thank you to everyone who helped and believed in my dream. I will always appreciate you deeply.
Gavin: You were featured as one of the Top 30 women to watch in Women's Business Magazine. What's your take on that kind of recognition and being in that list?
Teresa: It’s pretty awesome to be a creative person with a small independent company and be included on a list like that. It is quite an honor.
Gavin: Tell us about the upcoming launch party for your work and what you'll be doing with it.
Teresa: Unfortunately my art studio almost burned down. Now I’m in the process of looking for a different space. When I get settled I will have a big party and you’re all invited! If anyone knows of a space, let me know!
Gavin: A little local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?
Teresa: The scene is small and sweet. There is a lot of history in the faces and in the work. I have witnessed so many artists careers grow, which is really neat. I admire so many people in this community and think there are so many amazing and talented people here. I’m honored to be a part of it. With that being said, the community does tend to be a little conservative. I’d like to see more variety, challenging and interesting work. I would like to see collectors who really understand contemporary art and more fresh faced artists doing compelling work.
Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?
Teresa: I feel there needs to be more accessible galleries that can support innovative work, and really support artist’s visions in their entirety. With more funding and patrons to support galleries/artists work that is significant and distinct.
Gavin: Who are some of the locals you've been looking at recently that you've really enjoyed?
Teresa: I’ve always enjoyed Sri Whipple’s work. I love his style and his vision. Stephanie Leitch does beautiful installation work. I also like Maureen O’Hara Ure’s paintings. They are really dreamy. I of course really enjoy David Ruhlman’s work.
Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll and how its evolved over the years?
Teresa: I watched Gallery Stroll grow in its seedling phase when there were a lot of emerging artists and energy and a collective artistic spirit, it seems like the artistic energy has dispersed and I would like to see gallery stroll be revitalized. I am seeing this energy grow on Broadway.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on the current set of galleries we have here in Utah, but in the way they work with artists and their role in the community?
Teresa: I think that are doing their best to keep Salt Lake City’s art scene alive and vibrant, while keeping there doors open.
Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of the year?
Teresa: I have exciting things coming up. I am continually working on my art and my company Sleepictures. You can find me at the Downtown Farmer’s Market on the “renegade” (south side) of Pioneer Park and Park Silly’s art market on Sundays in Park City. I am having an exhibition of my photography work at Phillips Gallery in October. I am having a booth at the mini-market for Urban Outfitters in Los Angeles. I will also be showing at the Abbott-Kinney Arts Festival in Venice, CA . I will hopefully have a new studio soon and a studio-warming party to soon follow that will showcase some of my new work.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Teresa: Yes, please buy my art and help support your local artist. I have my products and artwork for sale at my company’s website, Sleepictures.com. Sleepictures is always open to investors, and has an internship position open! You can also see some of my photography work at TeresaFlowers.com. You can find my art products at Fresh, FICE, Frosty Darling, Art Access, Coda Gallery and Bella Forte. Shop local! Please watch this trailer about Lyme Disease. It will help you understand how hard things have been for me the past twelve years, please help. I also wanted to send out a HUGE thanks to all my many friends who have really showed up for me, in one way or another, and who have REALLY been there for me over the years. I could have never made it this far alone. You all know who you are! THANK YOU, THANK YOU!