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Artwork by Sister Corita Kent

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About the Artist

(1918-1986) Frances Elizabeth Kent was the name she was born with.

"Sister Mary Corita, once the nation's best-known nun, won fame as a serigraph artist. Her bright, colorful silk-screen prints were the rage of the 1960s. She designed the United States' first "Love" postage stamp.

Mary Corita Kent was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa in 1918, then moved with her family to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1920. Two years later they moved to Los Angeles, where she grew up. She joined the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary there in 1938. She received her bachelor's degree from Immaculate Heart College in 1941, followed by a master's in art history 10 years later from the University of Southern California.

Popularly known as "Sister Mary Corita," she turned to the silk-screen process in 1950. Her large compositions combine quotations, often from the Bible or modern poetry, with religious or secular images. During her career as an artist and teacher, Kent also designed greeting cards and book covers. She achieved fame in the early 1960s with her brightly colored silkscreen posters. Some of her work includes excerpts from the writings of Carl Jung, e.e. cummings, and Rainer Maria Rilke. She began adding words to her designs because, she said, "I have been nuts about words and their shape since I was very young."

Sister Mary Corita became one of our country's most celebrated artists and gained international fame through her creative, magical use of color and words. As a muralist, her critically acclaimed 40-foot mural for the Vatican Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair also brought her worldwide attention.

She taught at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, the art department of which, under her creative direction, established itself as a center for the art of learning as well as the learning of art. Buckminster Fuller described his visit to the department as "among the most fundamentally inspiring experiences of my life."

As a teacher, she was known as a challenger, a free-thinker, a celebrator, an encourager. She taught her students that one of the most important rules, when looking at art or watching films, was never to allow yourself to blink. One might miss something extremely valuable. And what the students cherished most about her competence as a teacher was that she always made eye-contact with each individual, giving herself to each charge entirely.

Sister Corita became a symbol of the modern nun and was often the target of conservative Catholics, particularly when she turned to regular street dress in 1967.  During the late Sixties, the Church, like the rest of the country, was going through changes which angered, threatened, and tormented many of the faithful. The art of Sister Mary Corita began to infuriate certain conservative church leaders. She was considered dangerous. Once she was accused of being a "guerilla with a paint brush"; guerilla meaning an enemy who used familiar images to make blatant statements. It is doubtful if this attack offended the artist. She was a resister, a quiet activist who knew her soul, and did what she could to make the world a better place in which to live.

After more than 30 years as a nun, Kent returned to private life in December 1968, moving to Boston to devote herself to her art, and opening a gallery. For the next eighteen years Corita created over 50 commissions, in addition to over 400 new editions of serigraphs. Special projects included the landmark 150-foot rainbow painting on the Boston Gas Company's natural gas tank; numerous murals, billboards, book covers and book illustrations, logos, greeting cards, etc. In addition, she published nine books of her own. She also created complete editions of serigraphs for fundraising use by numerous organizations dedicated to peace and social justice. She won dozens of art prizes and saw her work hung in many of the world's major art museums. Critics praised her prints as joyful, exuberant, bold and radiant.

Around 1977, the artist developed cancer, and though her doctor gave her only six months to live, she knew that she had major art pieces to accomplish before she died --nine years later. Corita passed away in 1986, bequeathing her remaining prints, as well as the copyrights to all her works, to support the good works of the Immaculate Heart Community. The Corita collection was cared for and administrated by volunteers until 1997.

The art of Sister Mary Corita is in the permanent collections of over 40 major museums including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris."

Excerpted from www.AskArt.com