As we celebrate Sister Mary Noreen O’Leary after 100 years of life and 73 years of religious profession, her legacy of using art as “a source of new vision” for creation and education lives on through her work and her countless students.
For over 30 years, Sister Mary Noreen was a beloved instructor in the Marylhurst College Art Department. She had the challenge and the joy of convincing young people preparing to become teachers that they were equal to the challenge, including teaching art.
After leaving the college, Sister Mary Noreen spent many years teaching private art classes to children and adults in her Marylhurst studio. Throughout her life, she remained a practicing artist whose extensive body of work includes serigraph, mosaic, block print, oil and acrylic works.
A primary tenet of her philosophy of art was “The Adventure of Seeing!” The creative environment and diverse collections of her studio enhanced her students’ power to see beyond the external and to venture into “the within” in their exploration and experimentation with various media.
Sister Mary Noreen perceived art as a positive challenge. “It is a means by which we can explore and enjoy our world — both the inner world and the outer one,” she said. “Like life, art is a constantly growing experience. It does not disregard suffering. Rather, it is a tool for thinking and a source of new vision.”
Sister Mary Noreen recognized the value of art to human life and spirit. Whether participating in the richness and appreciation of the work of others, or imparting the values and principles of art to learners, she understood that art making and art immersion are important to the full development of the human person.