The Pop Art Nun

Be Patient, Corita Kent

Be Patient, Corita Kent

I was off last Friday and instead of laying around my house, watching terrible daytime television, and eating Jalapeno Cheetos (they are a thing, a delicious, delicious thing) I actually put on pants and left my house. Not only that, but I did something cultural. I am so glad I did! I cannot remember the last time I was so inspired by art. Now I think everyone needs to see the Corita Kent show at the Andy Warhol Museum before it ends on April 19th. (Who can resist anyone called The Pop Art Nun?)

from the Warhol:

Someday is Now is the first major museum show to survey her entire career, including early abstractions and text pieces as well as the more lyrical works made in the 1970s and 1980s. The exhibition also includes rarely shown photographs Corita used for teaching and documentary purposes.

In other words, it’s a big deal. (If you don’t believe me, here is a review from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and an NPR review- both glowing.)

“Like a priest, a shaman, a magician, she could pass her hands over the commonest of the everyday, the superficial, the oh-so-ordinary, and make it a vehicle of the luminous, the only, and the hope filled.” -Friend and theologian, Harvey Cox

“Like a priest, a shaman, a magician, she could pass her hands over the commonest of the everyday, the superficial, the oh-so-ordinary, and make it a vehicle of the luminous, the only, and the hope filled.” -Friend and theologian, Harvey Cox

Corita Kent was a designer, an illustrator, a writer, an artist, a feminist, a nun, an activist, and according to artist Ben Shahn, “a joyous revolutionary.” She was born Frances Kent in 1918 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. In 1936, she entered the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart, taking the name Sister Mary Corita Kent. She earned her MA in Art History at the University of Southern California and taught at the Immaculate Heart College for almost 30 years. During her time at IHC, she worked with such ground-breaking artists as Alfred Hitchcock, Buckminster Fuller and Charles & Ray Eames and her classes became a mecca for inventors and avant-garde creators. She eventually left the order (because of some disagreements with the Vatican) to pursue her art full-time in Boston, MA. She died of cancer in 1986.

She worked almost exclusively with silkscreen and designed the United States Postal Service’s annual “love” stamp. Her ground-breaking (and massive) body of work includes pop-inspired prints that used the writing of Albert Camus, Robert Frost, e.e. cummings and even Jim Morrison of the Doors to question the social upheaval of the 1960s, religion, activism, and also spread messages of hope, faith, and tolerance.


As a librarian and lover of words, I love that she uses text in her work. It took nearly two hours for me to move through the exhibit because I had to read every word she printed. I left wanting to reread all of Frost and then read all of the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. I had to make a list so I could discover more about the artists she references. I found myself laughing and questioning and getting teary-eyed as I moved through her life’s work. It made me want to share her with everyone.


Who needs paper? Not this librarian!


SomedayIsNowSomeday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent, curated by Ian Berry & Michael Duncan

Full-scale survey of her work

Damn Every Thing but the Circus: A Lot of Things Put Together, Corita

Illustrations, quotes and poetry from Corita.

DamnEverythingButTheCircuCome Alive: The Spirited Art of Sister Corita, Julie Ault
The first study of her work, containing essays that examine her life and career.

Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit, Corita Kent, Corita Kent

This was the textbook she used in her classes. Sadly, we don’t have this title. But I found lots of copies for sale online!

Also, if you would like to look at more of her work, there is a brilliant online collection through the Harvard Art Museums.

And finally, the full quote from the painting “Be Patient” is from  Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

The show ends April 19th! Don’t miss it!









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