Western North Carolina Woman

Monika Teal
by Melissa Stanz

Part gypsy, part scholar, all artist, Monika Teal lives her life with gusto.

Occasionally you meet someone who dazzles you from the first moment—someone who defines beauty inside and out. This was my experience in meeting Monika Teal, artist, world traveler, and genuine human being. The magic started as I walked to the front door of her bungalow in Asheville's Kenilworth neighborhood. Stately dogwood trees in full bloom framed the house; flowers dotted the yard. She and her handsome Belgian shepherd Loba greeted me through the screen door. Monika gave me a mile wide smile and an infectious laugh. “Oh, this is going to be fun. I get to talk about me and my work!”


Monika Teal's allegorical paintings tell stories and help her define herself and reflect her growth as a human and a as woman. She references myths, fables, art history, and observations of the societies around her. She researches the story, finds its place in history and then paints. She paints to share her experiences with others, and believes they become archetypal images.Sitting at her dining room table looking at slides of her work. I was quickly hooked. The paintings, oil on canvas, are done in layers, over and over, changing lines, colors, depth, composition, shadows, and forms, altering the feeling from person to animal to environment. They are bright, complex, and larger than life.These series and sectional creations range in size from 11” x 12” to 6'x 4'. “I want my paintings to come from my gut, not my head,” she explained. “The gut never lies, but the brain is always playing tricks. I am always searching for new ways to develop my ideas and retell my stories.”Eve's Temptation, a 36” x58” piece, is a single painting divided into sections. It tells the story of original sin, using Eve's mouth, apples, and snakes. Monika worked on the Eve series for a long time, not really knowing why, but trusting the process. As she finished this painting, she realized it was about respecting what she calls “womanicity.”

“I make a deal with my paintings when I begin. At any point when the painting wants to have its voice, I step back and let it finish itself. It makes my paintings more honest and fresh. It's important to me as a person to be honest, life is just too short not to be, and being honest really simplifies things.”She abandons logic and reason when she works, and accepts chaos as an undeniable and temporary stage, saying that too much analysis stifles creativity. Occasionally in her sectional paintings, she shuffles the sections to retell a story or create a new story. “When I do this it's chaotic, and it forces the eye and brain to create a different sense of the painting.”Many of her paintings incorporate words partially obscured by paint. She believes the words are important due to the complexity of her art.

“Sometimes these words become the seduction for the painting, they are one way I encourage people to spend more time with them,” she explained.Her professional training includes degrees from the University of Minnesota, Western Carolina University, and New School of Visual Concepts and the Seattle Institute of Art. Her paintings grace museums, homes, and companies across the U.S. and in Europe. After spending a month in Cuba on a cultural exchange in 2001, she was invited by the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba to exhibit her work in Cuba in 2002. She is the first American woman painter invited by this group to share her work in Cuba outside of Havana. Some of her paintings will appear in the Biennale Internazionale dell'Arte Contemporanea show in Florence, Italy this December. Museums in North and South Carolina, Florida, Switzerland, and Italy have exhibited her paintings, and other paintings hang in corporate collectionsat such companies as the Idea Factory in Los Angeles, Wachovia Bank, Henley Paper Company, and VKR Firma in Switzerland.
Her work is also available at Marie Terrel Gallery in Asheville.


She supports herself with her art, always painting, but sometimes teaching privately or in universities. She recently taught art history to inmates at Morganton Correctional Facility in North Carolina in conjunction with UNC-A.“Every job I've ever had had something to do with art. I'm happy and proud of myself, and love the freedom I give myself,” she said.

Born and raised in a small town in Scotland County, NC, she is the daughter of a German mother who appreciated the finer things in German society and a loving father, the son of a blacksmith, who married her mom during the war years. Monika's upbringing was, well, different from the way her friends grew up. “I was raised the way my mother was raised, I dressed differently, I learned high society table manners and proper English. I still have a tender spot in my back where my mother would push on it, emphasizing good posture!

”Monika never really fit in growing up, and says she resented that at the time, but now is proud of the way she was brought up. Her childhood stories ranged from Uncle Remus to Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales. Narrative paintings became a way for her to make sense of being different. “I wanted to fit in so badly, and I think that's one of the things that led me to be an artist. I've always had a voice that needed to come out, and it can and does in my paintings.

”She's lived in many places, including many years in Switzerland. As you read this article, she is now back in Switzerland for three months, creating two commissioned works, painting in studios in Switzerland and Germany, and traveling, making contacts and living her life. She hopes to create a life living part time in Switzerland and part time in Asheville. She says she's feels drawn here, and has many close friends.

As she prepared to leave for her adventure, she reflected on her decision. “Money is not a deciding factor in living my life; I do what I need to do. So I'm just going ahead. I must be doing something right, because I'm happy and I get what I need,” she said.

Monika believes in herself, and encourages other women to do the same. “Find out what it is that makes you happy, then be brave enough to do it,” she advised. “And remember, guts are a gift, and to create is a gift.”

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