When you think of the kind of art a devout nun would make, do you imagine work that is colourful, humorous and dripping with punk spirit? We’re going to guess ‘no’! But with works that liken the Virgin Mary to a juicy tomato and communion wafers to potato chips, Sister Corita Kent was one bad ass nun and an inspirational woman artist we should all be taking cues from right now.
Corita was an art teacher at LA’s now defunct Immaculate Heart College, from 1946 — 1968. She then moved to Boston to continue exploring her art practice, sitting deep within the anti-war and civil rights movements. By the 60’s her work had shown in over 200 exhibitions across the US, and she had created designs for posters, book covers and large scale murals which had been included in the collections of the MoMA and The Met.
She combined her Catholic faith with her passion for social justice and love of pop culture, to develop a bright, positive and instantly recognisable style of work which would come to inspire generations. She was influenced by Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha, who were also huge Pop artists at the time and also borrowed from advertising, bill posters and pop culture to make their works. In time, Warhol and Ruscha also became huge fans of her work. Now that is some high praise, Sister!
Working almost exclusively with silkscreen, Corita used explosive colour palettes and often experimental typography and text to share her messages of love and tolerance. She used her art as her activisim, exploring and commenting on the issues of war, civil rights and social change that was happening in the 60’s.
As both a woman artist and a nun, Corita was cast to margins of the movements she was part of, often denied recognition as part of the mainstream ‘canon’ by critics and theorists. Luckily, she’s recently enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity and, finally, recognition for her role in the Pop Art movement. We think her revival is timely. Maybe more than ever, couldn’t we all use a little of Corita’s love and punk spirit?