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Corita Kent

American Printmaker and Pop Artist

Corita Kent Photo
Movement: Pop Art

Born: November 20, 1918 - Fort Dodge, Iowa

Died: September 18, 1986 - Boston, Massachusetts

"Words have life and must be cared for. If they are stolen for ugly uses or careless slang or false promotion work, they need to be brought back to their original meaning - back to their roots."

Sister Corita Kent

Summary of Corita Kent

Corita Kent, a nun for over three decades, created bold and colorful silkscreen prints that championed social justice causes. Kent took seriously the Catholic ideas of finding the holy in one's everyday life and so turned to popular images and song lyrics as well as commodity labels and lettering. Kent combined these with biblical verses and her own handwriting to create compositions that spoke to the weighty themes of poverty, racism, and war. Kent merged a Pop Art aesthetic, inspired by Andy Warhol, with spiritual and compassionate thinking in order that her art be accessible to the largest public possible. Through her work and her decades of teaching avant-garde art Kent inspired and showed new directions for numerous artists and activists.

Key Ideas

Working almost exclusively in silkscreen printing, or serigraphy, Kent not only emulated Pop Art methods, but she was also adamant that this medium, which created multiple prints of the same image, was more accessible and affordable for more people. This democratic notion of art making and art buying went hand-in-hand with her social justice activism.
Unlike much Pop Art, which glorified and criticized the new American commodity culture, Kent used the everyday - a loaf of bread or a can of tomatoes - to imbue it with a sense of spirituality and religiosity. Additionally, her inclusion of texts written in her own handwriting added a sense of the personal that most Pop Art lacked.
Steeped in the liberal tradition of Catholicism that promoted social justice, Kent, even after she left the convent, combined the radicality of artistic avant-garde practice with social activism, creating a protest art that railed against America's war in Vietnam, that supported Civil Rights, and that shone a light on poverty and hunger. While much Pop Art eschewed overt politics, Kent thoroughly embraced socially outspoken art.
Corita at the Immaculate Heart College Art Department (c. 1964)

When Sister Corita Kent became an influential Pop Artist, religious elders were unhappy. Complaints were made about her art and she was asked to abandon her creative calling. She left her convent as a result and found herself at the age of 50 living alone for the first time and lacking life skills. Unable to drive or cook, she was unperturbed and went on to create a body of powerful art that wowed the likes of Andy Warhol!

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