Catholic Herald Staff
“A global gift” is how the prioress of St. Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, describes Sr. Mary Charles, an artist and longtime member of the Benedictine order.
“She believed a holy creative spark burned in the heart of each person,” said Benedictine Sr. Lois Eckes. “She was a deeply spiritual woman whose faith was reflected in her art.”
An artist who worked in a variety of media – wood, fabric, ceramics, graphic design, mosaic, stained glass and more – Sr. Mary Charles is perhaps best known in the regional Catholic community for writing traditional Byzantine icons.
Many of Sr. Mary Charles’ icons are displayed in area churches; now, the works of the late Benedictine sister are being shown for the first time in a museum.
“Engagement and Transcendence” is the title of the new exhibition at the Tweed Museum of Art on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.
The exhibit opened June 3 and continues through Sept. 21. Admission is free; gallery talks are scheduled for 2 p.m. June 29 and 2 p.m. July 19.
The project is the first-ever collaboration between the St. Scholastica Monastery and the Tweed, said Ken Bloom, museum director and curator.
Born Mary Helen McGough (pronounced “McGoo”) to a poor Irish Catholic family in 1925, the future Benedictine entered the monastery after high school.
She studied art and education in college and graduate school, ultimately earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame.
She taught art to people of all ages, including children who attended her summer camp program, and St. Scholastica students. She was also a prolific working artist whose prints are popular among local collectors.
Sr. Mary Charles began studying iconography in 1990, and she devoted the remainder of her life to the art form. She died at the monastery in 2007.
“Molly,” as her Benedictine sisters called her, “believed that the world will be saved by beauty,” Sr. Lois explained. All we have to do is “allow the Divine to bring forth light in us.
“It really is a momentous and glorious moment,” the prioress said of the exhibition. “I think the heavens and the earth are also saying this is the right time to do this event.”