Just to Live is Holy: Women Religious and a Tradition of Art, Faith and Justice

Just to Live Is Holy features more than a dozen artists affiliated with a religious order, each of whom has made a unique contribution to our understanding of the relationship between art and faith and the importance of social justice.

The exhibition was first conceived of more than three years ago and organized by the Dubuque Museum of Art, with the assistance of a community advisory committee representing area congregations.

A highlight of the exhibit will be the inclusion of works by internationally-known artist, Sister Corita Kent (American, 1918-1986). Born in Fort Dodge, Iowa a century ago, Kent taught at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles for more than two decades, where she developed a distinctive, Pop Art style, blending bold color and graphic imagery with scripture and poetry to form a language at once personal and universal.

Recent traveling exhibits of Kent’s work have visited museums across the country, including the Harvard Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland; the Andy Warhol Museum, and the San Antonio Museum of Art. Kent has also been the subject of numerous features in leading media outlets, including The Guardian, National Public Radio, and the CBS Sunday Morning Show.

Also on display in the McNamer Gallery is the installation piece Dear Mother by Louise Kames, professor of art and Chair of the Art and Art History Department at Clarke University.

Dear Mother consists of twenty black silk-draped forms suspended from the ceiling suggesting the cape portion of the traditional religious clothing or habit worn by a BVM. The silk forms are arranged in pairs to evoke a ceremonial procession or recreational walk. Kames was a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for 24 years and remains closely connected to the women of the BVM community through her work and friendships. Kames created the installation, Dear Mother, in 2003 to honor twenty-two deceased BVM Sisters with whom she had lived or worked.

Works by more than a dozen noted local and regional women religious artists are featured in the exhibition, including:

Sr. Marie Barth, PBVM
Sr. Barbara Cerny, BVM
Sr. Kay Cota, PBVM
Sr. Joeann Daley, O.P.
Sr. Blanche Marie Gallagher, BVM
Louise Kames
Corita Kent
Sr. Helen Kerrigan, BVM
Sr. Carrie Link, PBVM
Sr. Margaret Mear, BVM
Sr. Chiara Pauloni, O.P.
Sr. Catharine Wall, O.P.
Sr. James Ann Walsh, BVM
Sr. Carmelle Zserdin, BVM

A fully-illustrated catalogue is being published in conjunction with the exhibition and will include essays by Dr. Paulette Skiba, BVM, professor of religious studies at Clarke University; Louise Kames, chair of the Art Department at Clarke University; Sister Rhonda Miska; and John August Swanson, a Los Angeles-based artist and former student of Corita Kent.

In addition to the artists and a private collector, lenders to the exhibition include the Corita Kent Art Center in Los Angeles; Iowa Women’s Archive, University of Iowa Libraries; Sioux City Art Center; Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota; Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters; Mt. Carmel – Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and Clarke University.

Related programs and exhibitions will take place at Clarke University Quigley Gallery and Mt. Carmel.


DuMA Member Preview
Friday, September 21, 5 – 8 pm
Members FREE; $10 guests

In Her Spirit Exhibition
August 20 – September 30, 2018
Quigley Gallery, Clarke University
Opening Reception: Sunday, September 9, 3-5 pm

Jane Gilmor Talk
September 26, 7 pm
Jansen Music Hall, Clarke University

Community Day
Saturday, September 22, 10 am – 4 pm | FREE admission
Featuring Smithsonian Museum Day Live: Women Making History, MFC/Little
Luxuries project with artist Chelsea Tapia and Ellen Dettmer’s Women of
Dubuque portrait project

Mount Carmel Art Tour with Kate Hendel
Sunday, October 7, 2 pm
Walking tour of the Mount Carmel Motherhouse artwork collection.
Members FREE; $10 guests

Louise Kames Gallery Talk
Wednesday, October 24, 12:15 pm
Gallery walk through of Just To Live Is Holy exhibition and Louise Kames Dear Mother installation