|Sister Mary Corita|
Patricia McGuire, later known as Patricia McGuire Rock, was born in Rock Rapids,
in 1930. Frances Elizabeth Kent, later
known as Corita Kent, was born in in 1918. Me, I was born in Fort
so we had that much in common at least. Iowa City, Iowa
The following is a link to a story I wrote about Pat Rock, http://coltonspointtimes.blogspot.com/2013/11/farewell-to-my-friend-patricia-mcguire.html
and it adequately describes her impact on my life.
on the other hand, never taught me but Sister Louis Marie brought her radical
art style to my attention when she was teaching me in the early 1960's. If you did not live the 1960's you may never understand
the meaning of revolution, change, war, academic freedom, civil rights, environmental
concerns, protests, civil disobedience, riots, murder, corruption, and on and
I believe it was the greatest decade of upheaval in our
nation's history and an unsuspecting Nun who was born in
and teaching in
was a champion of change because of her unique art and powerful messages
manifested in signs, slogans, and billboards.
Sister Mary Corita was such a champion that it led to her
leaving the convent, just as Sister Louis Marie did a few years later. Few people knew her back then, and fewer know
her now, but it is time we learn about some of the unsung heroes in our nation's
Here is her story as told by the
Corita Kent, Warhol’s Kindred Spirit in the Convent
“The only rule is work,” read the seventh point on the
art department’s list of
rules, devised by Corita Kent, known as Sister Mary Corita, one of the most
unlikely Pop Art phenomena of the 1960s and ’70s. Immaculate Heart College
“If you work, it will lead to something,” the edict continued. “It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.”
|Warhol and Kent art|
Predating even Andy Warhol (who later became an influence on her work), Kent was an early adopter of serigraphy, or silk-screening — considered a sign painter’s lowly tool at the time. She shared Warhol’s interest in the iconography of advertising but used it to very different ends, lifting texts from advertisements and poems and deconstructing and juxtaposing them to form colorful typographic works to help people “use their whole selves better,” as she once said.
This idealism dovetailed with the zeitgeist — her work found its way into civil rights and Vietnam protests — and landed her on the cover of national magazines; a stamp she designed for the United States Postal Service sold more than 700 million copies. But today she’s mostly remembered as a cult icon of sorts, whose life and work suggest a kind of alternate history of Pop Art. The curator Ian Berry, who recently assembled a traveling exhibition of Kent’s work with another curator, Michael Duncan, describes her as “a key figure in the history of American art,” and “a fiercely independent maker with a unique voice and vision.”
Frances Elizabeth Kent was born in
Dodge, Iowa, in 1918 and grew
up in Los Angeles.
Her family was Catholic, and after high school, she joined the Order of the
Immaculate Heart of Mary, earning an arts degree at the college the order ran.
Ten years later, while pursuing her master’s degree, Kent was
introduced to print making, the medium that would later bring her to the
attention of art world.
By the early 1950s, she was forging her own unique aesthetic, and soon “priests and nuns from orders all over the country were sent to be educated at
Immaculate Heart College,”
wrote Ray Smith, director of the Corita Art Center in Los Angeles, in an email.
For nearly a decade in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Kent toured
widely, delivering lectures at institutions — religious and otherwise — across
the country about her work.
In the late ’60s, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council — a landmark effort to modernize the church, which many Catholic clergy members took as a blessing for social and political activism — the Immaculate Heart sisters began chafing at the strictures that had traditionally bound the order.
Kent transformed Immaculate Heart College’s annual Mary’s Day procession from an austere march into a community celebration that included theatrical performances, food drives and masses of flower-decked followers holding up signs inspired by her art — part of the sisters’ campaign to bring secular and religious people closer together.
At the same time,
Kent’s work was becoming
increasingly political, addressing the Vietnam War and humanitarian crises.
Tensions between the order and the church leadership in Los Angeles mounted, and Sister Mary
Corita left the order in 1968, returning to secular life as Corita Kent. (Most
of the other Immaculate Heart sisters followed suit not long after; in 1969,
the order separated from the church, continuing its work as a lay organization.
The closed in 1980.) Immaculate Heart College
Corita Art Center has
a vast catalog of unprocessed photographs of Kent and her work. The
photographer Suzanna Zak recently went digging through them and turned up a
remarkable record of Kent’s
life. The selection here includes images of Kent teaching as well as many
photographs that Kent herself took.