Ten years ago, Polish artist Barbara Skorupa says she ‘experienced a calling’ to create a series of portraits of holy women. But not just any kind of portraits. She says that while the women featured are not from the ‘world of glamour’, she wanted to portray them ‘like Hollywood stars’.
Since then, Skorupa has created pop art–style portraits of more than 100 holy women from around the world that have been exhibited in galleries, churches and cloisters in and around Germany. Twenty-four of these portraits will soon be travelling to Melbourne for a special exhibition entitled ‘Great Women of Faith’, from 1 to 10 March at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
‘Pop art style has great iconic strength and timelessness and catches the eye,’ Barbara says. ‘You like to look at it; the colour contrasts attract. I wanted to draw attention to these women.’
The exhibit at one of the country’s most iconic locations will be the first time her portraits will be shown in Australia. ‘I am delighted that St Patrick’s Cathedral will be hosting these strikingly beautiful portraits of holy women,’ said Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, ‘each of whom lived lives of deep faithfulness and hope.’
While the subjects in Barbara’s collection are not all officially recognised saints, she says what unites them is their ‘exceptional character and faith’. The line-up includes some of Australia’s own holy women, such as St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Dr Sr Mary Glowrey and Eileen O’Connor.
It also features the faces of women who may not be as well known to the public, including Anna Dengel, a medical missionary and founder of the Medical Mission Sisters, and Satoko Kitahara, a Japanese woman who was baptised Catholic as a young adult and cared for the poorest of the poor before dying of tuberculosis at 28. She was declared Venerable in 2015.