Corita Kent, better known as Sister Corita, was a Roman Catholic nun living, studying and teaching at the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles from 1936 to 1938 where she headed the art department from 1964 to 1968.
Her work, encouraged by Vatican II (1962), a movement to modernise the Catholic Church and make it more relevant to contemporary society, marries pop culture and contemporary issues with messages of faith and the power of God at a critical period of political unrest.
Sister Corita’s famed text-based screen prints draw on the bold, high keyed imagery of the Pop Art movement; reflected in key historical moments such as Andy Warhol’s 32 Campbell Soup Cans installation of 1962. Magpie-like, Corita borrowed signs and slogans, popular song lyrics and pieces of poetry; billboards, product packaging and the magazine advertising that surrounded her in 1960s Los Angeles to develop her own distinct messages of joy, faith, love and protest.
Sister Corita became a highly famed female figure in 1960s America. In 1966 she was among the LA Times’ ‘Women of the Year’ and Harpers Bazaar included her in their ‘100 American Women of Accomplishment’ alongside Ella Fitzgerald and Georgia O’Keefe. Corita appeared on the cover of Newsweek in December 1967, under the headline ‘The Nun: Going Modern’.
In 1968 Sister Corita left Immaculate Heart and moved to Boston, where she lived until her death in 1986. Her 1971 untitled work, popularly referred to as Rainbow Swash – a rainbow across a 140 foot-long storage tank on Interstate 93, is considered one of the major landmarks of Boston to this day.
Her work emerges as a colourful and touching response to a period of great unrest, including the American civil rights movement, the wars in Indo-China and South East Asia and the assassinations of America’s political leaders. As the best preachers and political orators do, Corita’s art leaves us with messages that still resonate today.
Sister Corita’s Summer of Love is curated by Simon Rees, director of Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand and has been developed in partnership with Wellington City Gallery. The exhibition combines Corita’s artwork with two short films: Mary’s Day (1964) directed by Bayliss Glascock and Alleluia: The life and art of Corita Kent: the 60s (1967) directed by Thomas Conrad.
The first opportunity to experience of the artist’s work in depth in Australia, Sister Corita’s Summer of Love at the Ian Potter Museum of Art will be exclusively complemented by Don’t Be Too Polite; an exhibition of posters by Australian printmaking collectives from the 1980s and 1990s.
Sister Corita’s Summer of Love
The Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne, Swanston Street, Parkville
Exhibition: 22 November 2016 – 26 March 2017
For more information, visit: www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au for details.
Image: Sister Corita Kent, In memory of RFK 1968. screenprint – courtesy of the Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles, CA