Corita Kent

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Corita Kent
Sister Corita Kent.jpg
Born Frances Elizabeth Kent
November 20, 1918
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Died September 18, 1986(1986-09-18) (aged 67)
Boston, Massachusetts
Known for Silkscreen, serigraphy
Movement Pop art

Corita Kent (November 20, 1918 – September 18, 1986), aka Sister Mary Corita Kent, was born Frances Elizabeth Kent in Fort Dodge, Iowa.[1] Kent was an American Catholic nun, an artist, and an educator who worked in Los Angeles and Boston.

She worked almost exclusively with silkscreen, or serigraphy, helping to establish it as a fine art medium. Her artwork, with its messages of love and peace, was particularly popular during the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s.[2] Kent designed the 1985 version of the United States Postal Service's special "Love" stamp.[3]


Upon entering the Roman Catholic order of Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles in 1936, Kent took the name Sister Mary Corita.[4] She took classes at Otis (now Otis College of Art and Design) and Chouinard Art Institute and earned her BA from Immaculate Heart College in 1941.[5] She earned her MA at the University of Southern California in Art History in 1951.[6] Between 1938 and 1968 Kent lived and worked in the Immaculate Heart Community.[7] She taught in the Immaculate Heart College and was the chair of its art department. She left the order in 1968 and moved to Boston, where she devoted herself to making art. She died of cancer in 1986.[8]

Her classes at Immaculate Heart were an avant-garde mecca for prominent, ground-breaking artists and inventors, such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Cage, Saul Bass, Buckminster Fuller and Charles & Ray Eames.[9]

Kent credited Charles Eames, Buckminster Fuller, and art historian Dr. Alois Schardt for their important roles in her intellectual and artistic growth.[10]

Kent created several hundred serigraph designs, for posters, book covers, and murals. Her work includes the 1985 United States Postal Service stamp "Love"[11] and Rainbow Swash (1971), the largest copyrighted work of art in the world, covering a 150-foot (46 m) high natural gas tank in Boston.[12]

Some of Corita Kent's most recent solo exhibitions include: Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent[13] at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College, There Will Be New Rules Next Week[14] at Dundee Contemporary Arts, and R(ad)ical Love: Sister Mary Corita[15] at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Corita Kent's estate is represented by the Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles, CA.

Artistic style[edit]

Corita Kent began using popular culture as raw material for her work in 1962. Her screen prints often incorporated the archetypical product of brands of American consumerism alongside spiritual texts. Her design process involved appropriating an original advertising graphic to suit her idea; for example, she would tear, rip, or crumble the image, then re-photograph it. She often used grocery store signage, texts from scripture, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and writings from literary greats such as Gertrude Stein, E. E. Cummings, and Albert Camus as the textual focal point of her work.[16]

Sister Corita produced her oeuvre during her time at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles in response to the Catholic reform in the 1960s by the Vatican Council II as well as several political and social issues happening at the time.[17] Because of her strongly political art, she and others left their order to create the Immaculate Heart Community in 1970 to avoid problems with their archdiocese.[18]

The “Big G” logo that Sister Corita took from General Mills was to stress the idea of ‘goodness’, while the elements stolen from Esso gasoline ads were meant to project the internal power within humans.[19] Unsurprisingly, a Christian subtext does underscore several of her artworks, but not all, which are open to interpretation.[20]

One of Sister Corita’s prints, love your brother (1969), depicts photographs of Martin Luther King Jr. overlaid with her handwritten words, “The king is dead. Love your brother,” outlining one of her more serious artworks, and presenting her views on politics and human nature.[21] Sister Mary Corita’s collages took popular images, often with twisted or reversed words, to comment on the political unrest of the time period, many of which could have been found at any number of marches or demonstrations, some of which she attended herself.[22]


The Corita Art Center, a gallery and archive dedicated to preserving and promoting the work and spirit of Corita Kent, is located on the campus of Immaculate Heart High School in Los Feliz, Los Angeles.

Corita Kent's papers are held at the Schlesinger Library, in Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.


Corita Kent's work is held by several art museums and private collectors including The Whitney,[23] Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,[24] and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.[25]

Partial list of publications[edit]

  • 1967 Footnotes and Headlines: A Play-Pray Book, Sister Corita
  • 1968 To Believe in God, poem by Joseph Pintauro, color by Sister Corita
  • 1969 city, uncity, poems by Gerald Huckaby, pages by Corita Kent
  • 1970 Damn Everything but the Circus, Corita Kent
  • 1992 Learning By Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit, Corita Kent (posthumously) and Jan Steward
  • 2000 "Life Stories of Artist Corita Kent (1918–1986): Her Spirit, Her Art, the Woman Within" (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Gonzaga University), Barbara Loste
  • Eye, No. 35, Vol. 9, edited by John L. Walters, Quantum Publishing, 2000.
  • 2006 Come Alive! The Spirited Art of Sister Corita, Julie Ault



  • Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent, Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, California, USA
  • Corita Kent and the Language of Pop, September 3, 2015–January 3, 2016, Harvard Art Museums; February 13, 2016–May 8, 2016, San Antonio Museum of Art


  • Let the Sun Shine In – A Retrospective, Solo Show, Circle Culture Gallery,[26] Berlin, Germany
  • Corita Kent, Solo Show, Galerie Allen, Paris, France
  • Someday Is Now: The Art of Corita Kent, Solo Show, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, US


  • The Gospel According to Corita Kent, Solo Show, Parson House Gallery, Assonet, US
  • The Corita Kent Exhibition, Solo Show, The Herb Alpert Educational Village, Santa Monica, US
  • There Will Be New Rules Next Week, Solo Show, Dundee Contemporary Arts Center, Dundee, Scotland
  • Someday Is Now: The Art of Corita Kent, Solo Show,
  • Tang Museum, Saratoga Springs, US
  • Tell It to My Heart, Group Show, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Basel, Switzerland
  • Culturgest, Group Show, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Artists Space, Group Show, New York, US
  • Decade of Dissent: Democracy in Action 1965-1976, Group Show, Santa Monica Art Studios, Santa Monica, US
  • Letters from Los Angeles: Text in Southern California Art, Group Show, Los Angeles Convention Center, L.A., US
  • Air de Pied-à-terre, Group Show, Lisa Cooley Gallery, New York, US
  • Elements, Rudiments, and Principles, Group Show, Boston University Art Gallery, Boston, US


  1. ^ Eye, Number 35, Volume 9, Spring 2000.
  2. ^ Kurhi, Eric (2011-02-14). "Work of pop art icon Corita Kent coming to Hayward, Castro Valley galleries". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  3. ^ Winick, Les (1985-04-07). "Usps Sends Its Fourth Message Of Love To Avid `Special Regular`". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  4. ^ Tigerman, Bobbye. Handbook of California Design. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: The Los Angeles County Museum Art and The MIT Press. pp. 142–143. ISBN 0262518384. 
  5. ^ "Corita Kent oral history transcript". Archives of American Art. Oral History Program, University of California, Los Angeles. 1977. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  6. ^ Eye, Number 35, Volume 9, Spring 2000.
  7. ^ Eye, Number 35, Volume 9, Spring 2000.
  8. ^ Belcher, Jerry (1986-09-20). "Artist Corita Kent, 'LOVE' Stamp Designer, Dies at 67". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  9. ^ "Tang hosts retrospective of artist, activist, and educator Corita Kent". Skidmore College. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  10. ^ Tigerman, Bobbye. Handbook of California Design. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: The Los Angeles County Museum Art and The MIT Press. pp. 142–143. ISBN 0262518384. 
  11. ^ "Love (1985)". Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Retrieved 2015-06-26. 
  12. ^ Phillip Martin (2001-11-03). "Wartime Visions". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2015-06-26. 
  13. ^ "Someday Is Now: The Art of Corita Kent". 2010-05-15. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  14. ^ "There Will Be New Rules Next Week". Dundee Contemporary Arts. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  15. ^ "R(ad)ical Love: Sister Mary Corita". National Museum of Women in the Arts. 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  16. ^ Axell, Evelyne, and Angela Stief. "Sister Corita." Power up - Female Pop Art: Evelyne Axell, Sister Corita, Christa Dichgans, Rosalyn Drexler, Jann Haworth, Dorothy Iannone, Kiki Kogelnik, Marisol, Niki De Saint Phalle ; Kunsthalle Wien, 5. November 2010 Bis 20. Februar 2011, Phoenix Art. Köln: Dumont, 2010. 151.
  17. ^ Newhouse, Kristina (2000). "Sister Corita, David Moffett: UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles". Artext: 87. 
  18. ^ Newhouse, Kristina (2000). "Sister Corita, David Moffett: UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles". Artext: 87. 
  19. ^ Pagel, David (February 22, 2000). "Art Review; Sister Corita's Edgy Optimism Endures in Two Exhibitions". Los Angeles Times. 
  20. ^ Pagel, David (February 22, 2000). "Art Review; Sister Corita's Edgy Optimism Endures in Two Exhibitions". Los Angeles Times. 
  21. ^ Kilston, Lyra (2010). "Sister Corita Kent: Zach Feuer". Art in America: 124–125. 
  22. ^ Pagel, David (February 22, 2000). "Art Review; Sister Corita's Edgy Optimism Endures in Two Exhibitions". Los Angeles Times. 
  23. ^ "Corita Kent: Who Came Out Of The Water". Whitney Museum of American Art. 1966. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  24. ^ "Sister Mary Corita Kent". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  25. ^ "Corita Kent - The Beginning of Miracles". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 
  26. ^ "Let the Sun Shine In – A Retrospective, February 22 until May 24, 2014". Circle Culture Gallery. 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-25. 

External links[edit]