“I have to paint. It is a disease,” said Minerva K Teichert (1888-1976). Here is a self portrait done after she had earned tuition for art school in the Eastern USA. She studied drawing then painting with master teachers of her time. Accepting what she termed her “commission” from encouraging teachers, she determined to paint her own stories and people.
She came back home to Idaho, married, and reared five children on a ranch in Cokeville, Wyoming. She helped herd animals, cooked for the hired help, held positions in her church ward, worked at women’s chores that were exhausting, but in the evening she painted in the parlor.
They were gorgeous impressionistic visions of what she read in the Bible, in history, and in the Book of Mormon. The animals she knew at first hand she gave remarkable volume and strength to. Sometimes the canvas she needed was too high for the ceiling and/or too wide for the walls, so she would fold it in half and paint one half before the other.
As her reputation spread, she received some large commissions such as a mural for the Manti Temple. Yet public applause or money were not her rewards. She painted every day she could because she was full of ideas and visions from her studying and reading. I have particularly enjoyed her imagining women in the Book of Mormon events she portrayed. It was customary to name very few women, although they and the children were cherished and fought for in the wars depicted. So I look in her canvases for the women, often wearing red. Minerva loved the color red and used it whenever she wanted to direct the eye to something important.
Gary, Mindy, and I drove to Provo to the BYU Museum of Art to see a collection of Teichert pictures displayed in roughly the chronological order of the Book of Mormon. Stories I had read so often came to life: Verve, excitement, beauty, savagery, faith, all bursting from oil paint on canvas. I had loved the quite a few pictures I had seen before and was thrilled at these now available.
I think of Minerva, tired already from considerable labor, putting her children to bed, gaining strength from squirting paint on her palette and picking up a brush, exhilarated by the act of bringing her vibrant characters to life. I keep asking myself how on earth she managed to paint so much and so well when her everyday life demanded so much. I wish I had had her sense of commission, her confidence that what she was doing was so important that she didn’t sit down and rest after chores were done. I am very glad that she went on painting when few noticed and continued despite hardship and rejection. We are the richer for her life and artistry. PMA