How a nun became a star in pop art and protest art: Sister Mary Corita Kent
How a nun became a star in pop art and protest art: Sister Mary Corita Kent

Pop art is all about the glorification of popular culture, bright colors and flashy slogans, experiments with materials and a slap in the face of public taste. And also - at least in the perception of the majority - stormy parties, scandalous films, crazy biographies of artists and photographers … Least of all the above is associated with monastic robes. However, the nun was indeed the outstanding artist of pop art. Her name was Corita Kent, and in her work, love for God and political protest merge into one.

Sister Mary Corita Kent

At birth, sister Mary Corita was named Frances Elizabeth Kent. She was born in 1918 in a poor family, barely making ends meet. And, perhaps, young Kent would have led an unremarkable and rather miserable life, if not for … the church. After graduating from high school, at the age of eighteen, she joined the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart Catholic organization and was tonsured as Sister Mary Corita. Despite the fact that the sisters of the Immaculate Heart are nuns, they have always been distinguished by high social and political activity, striving to work “in the world” - as educators, teachers, nurses. Many sisters do not wear monastic vestments as a sign of humility. However, humility does not allow them to accept social injustice, even if required by the official church.

Sister Kent at work

Korita chose the teaching path for herself. She went to an Inuit reservation in British Columbia to teach art to children there - and she got carried away. After a while, Sister Kent returned to Los Angeles. The fact is that the sisters of the Immaculate Heart have always strived for creative development and supported each other in their desire to grow professionally, develop and create. Corita Kent attended the Otis College of Art and Design, Chouinard Art Institute, received her BA from Immaculate Heart College in 1941, and ten years later her MA in art history from the University of Southern California. But the main thing is that she started teaching experimental painting at the same College of the Immaculate Heart.

Works by Corita Kent. Collage and religious motives

She said - consider everything that you do, everything that happens to you, as an experiment. In art, nothing can be a mistake, even if you are unhappy with the result - you have not lost, but gained, you have gained a new experience. Create - and one day you will get exactly what you wanted. And most importantly - enjoy the process!

The Lord is with you. Common dandelion

Quite quickly, sister Mary Corita gained fame both as an artist and as a teacher. An atmosphere of complete acceptance and love reigned in her workshop. Artists, designers, photographers and rebels in search of their own style have forgotten about their attics, vernissages and other bohemian places, flocking like moths to the light of Mary Corita's sister. And other nuns and monks who wanted to teach painting were sent to her for training. It is believed that it was Sister Corita who contributed to the spread of the teaching of Catholic Masses in English in the United States.

Miracle bread

However, not everyone was delighted with the free-thinking and progressiveness of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart.The archbishops of Los Angeles criticized the college as “liberal,” and Cardinal James McIntyre accused the sisters of communism and blasphemy (it’s not clear which one is worse!). In the late sixties, Sister Corita left college and returned to social life. However, other sisters followed suit, leading to the closure of the college in 1980.

Come back unscathed

Corita Kent's early work was overwhelmed by her deep religious feeling. She practiced icon painting, illustrated the Gospel, and performed biblical prints. In the 1950s, she began creating the first silk-screen prints containing quotations from the Bible and other religious texts.

Corita Kent's work could look like posters - and still contain quotes from religious texts Text compositions were made by silk-screen printing

Throughout the sixties, inspired by Andy Warhol, she filled her “text pictures” with lines from popular songs, modernist poetry and political slogans, recognizable from the speeches of anti-war pacifist Father Daniel Berrigan and Martin Luther King - all of which suddenly took on a truly Christian spirit …

Dancing Star

During the years of political turmoil in the 60s and 70s, her works became a powerful call for peace, love and understanding. She performed silk-screened compositions containing texts and drawings in protest against the war in Vietnam and racial segregation, supported the struggle for women's rights. During this period, her prints and prints were exhibited at two hundred exhibitions throughout the country and entered the collections of all significant museums of fine art in the United States.

The work of Corita Kent

Kent has created posters, album covers, postage stamps (for example, the collectible stamp "Love is Hard Work" sold 700 copies), decorated books, painted murals … One of the important objects of her creative heritage Rainbow Swash - a reservoir for natural gas in boston with a height of 46 meters. It is the world's largest copyrighted work of art. She passed away in 1986 from cancer. Until the very last days, she continued to work - mainly in the technique of engraving and watercolors.

The work of Corita Kent

The memory of Corita Kent is not only her work in the permanent exhibition of museums of modern art and memorial exhibitions, websites dedicated to her, books, studies and documentaries about her. In 2021, activists secured the recognition of her studio as a historical landmark. Sister Mary Corita Kent was a nun. Sister Mary Corita Kent was an experimental artist who had a significant impact on the art of the second half of the twentieth century. Sister Mary Corita Kent was an art teacher, a faithful hand in guiding pupils and students in their creative pursuits, and openly supported youth protest movements. In everything she did, there was pure and sincere faith - in God, in vocation, in humanity, and the same pure and sincere love for the whole world.

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