Printmaker, educator, activist, and nun; Sister Mary Corita fulfilled all of these roles with a cheerful disposition, an open-minded attitude, and a hard-working sense of purpose. Born into an Irish Catholic family in 1918, Sister Corita was christened Frances Elizabeth Kent. She took the name Sister Mary Corita after entering the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Sister Corita was an inspiring and renowned teacher. Her classroom became a model that other educators emulated. She taught for more than twenty years at the Immaculate Heart College, and also served as the head of the art department there for several years.
She imposed the following rules for the classroom, which are taken from John Cage:
1. Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.
2. General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher. Pull everything out of your fellow students.
3. General duties of a teacher: Pull everything out of your students.
4. Consider everything an experiment.
5. Be self-disciplined. This means finding someone smart or wise and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
6. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.
7. The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch onto things.
8. Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.
9. Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than you think.
10. We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X qualities.
Helpful Hints: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies, carefully, often. Save everything--it might come in handy later.
There should be new rules next week.
Sister Corita reached a wide audience through her screenprints. She found screenprinting appealing as an accessible and democratic form of making art that offered the possibility of broad and inexpensive distribution. She created not only prints, but also posters, greeting cards, book jackets, and murals. Her work fused combinations of text and lettering with bold bright splashes of color.
Corita's beliefs are conveyed in her work. Themes from the Bible and various psalms populate the artist’s early work. Activist statements (Ben Shahn called her a "joyful revolutionary") pervade the work. Her later work appropriates contemporary slogans, song lyrics, philosophical statements and poetry. She borrowed freely from the iconography and vernacular of her urban surroundings and commercial advertising. Sister Corita’s spirituality evolved during the 1960s into a wider concept defining anything "good" as religious. She appropriated and re-contextualized everyday phrases and images to create art that addressed contemporary issues and current events such as the Vietnam war, poverty, and social injustice.
In 1968, Sister Corita decided to devote herself entirely to making art. She left the religious Order and moved to Boston. She made numerous commissioned works. Still using exuberant splashes of color, the tone of her work became more generally spiritual and introspective. Watercolor plein air paintings and floral motifs were also part of her later works. Sister Corita remained active in social causes and designed posters and billboards for Share, the International Walk for Hunger, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Amnesty International. The Boston Gas tank on the Southeast Expressway bears her famous 150-foot rainbow swash, which is similar to her design for the 1985 Love
Stamp created for the U.S. Postal Service. On Sept. 18, 1986 Corita lost her battle with cancer and died at home.
Sister Corita's art can be found in more than 30 major museum collections.
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA (1951)
Immaculate Heart College, Los Angeles, CA, USA (1941)
influenced Buckminster Fuller
friend of and influenced by Charles and Ray Eames