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“Great Women of Faith” Catholic art show gives holiness a Hollywood flair

Great Women of the Faith Exhibition poster

Courtesy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne

J-P Mauro - published on 03/07/24

St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne is hosting an exhibition featuring prominent female Catholic figures, painted in the eye-catching pop-art style.

Melbourne’s iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral is hosting an art exhibition that is placing “Great Women of Faith” in focus. From the hand of Polish artist Barbara Skorupa, the art features influential females whose lives stand as a faithful example for women, Catholics, and all people of good will. Running from March 1-10, 2024, the exhibition is free to attend for all who visit St. Patrick’s. 

Artist Barbara Skorupa
Artist Barbara Skorupa

Skorupa, who works from Cologne, selected 24 pieces from her body of 100 portraits for the exhibition. Many of her subjects are saints of the Catholic Church, while others are at various stages on the road to sainthood.

Catholics of Melbourne will be delighted to see the inclusion of three Australian Catholic figures: Australia’s only saint, St. Mary of the Cross McKillop; Servant of God St. Mary Glowery, JMJ; and Servant of God Eileen O’Connor.

Saints like Hollywood stars

The portraits are highly stylized pop-art paintings that feature vibrant colors, much in the same fashion as Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe. Skorupa explained in an interview with Melbourne Catholic that while the featured women are not from the “world of glamor” she sought to portray them “like Hollywood stars.” 

“Pop art style has great iconic strength and timelessness and catches the eye,” Barbara says. “You like to look at it; the color contrasts attract. I wanted to draw attention to these women… I am concerned with representation of the inner attitude of the women painted, which radiates from them and becomes visible through their lives.”

Barbara explained that some of the portraits took months to complete. First she would delve into her subject’s life, developing a certain empathy for each one over the course of her research. She would then painstakingly choose the color palette, paying special attention to colors that might allude to the woman’s nationality, or perhaps a color representative of their devotions; for example: a hint of blue if they had some connection to Mary.

Great women of the faith, barbara Skorupa with Missionaries of Charity
Artist Barbara Skorupa with the Missionaries of Charity

The result is a large body of work that presents prominent female Catholic figures in a new, eye-catching light.

Locking eyes with you

Skorupa is especially talented at painting lifelike eyes that give each subject an extraordinary amount of depth. Juxtaposed by minimal usage of shading, this makes the paintings all the more striking, as they appear to be locking eyes with the viewer.

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, who launched the exposition on March 1, commented on the display: 

“This remarkable exhibition of portraits by Barbara Skorupa features female witnesses of  deep faith whose contributions have been recognised, honored and allowed to flourish,”  said Archbishop Peter A Comensoli. “Each of these women lived lives of deep faithfulness  and hope. They are role models for living the faith in contemporary society.” 

Great Women of the Faith Exhibition poster

There’s still time to visit the “Great Women of Faith” exhibition at Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which will remain free and open to visitors until Sunday, March 10, 2024. Visit the website of the Archdiocese of Melbourne for more information.

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