When I visited the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh last spring, I arrived on the last day of a retrospective of the art of Corita Kent. My interest in feminism, faith and art meant I’d encountered Kent’s artwork before, but only briefly and only online. The opportunity to see her work in-person was a gift. Strolling through the silent Warhol with several of my closest friends felt more like church—inspiration, community, big ideas that transcend time and space—than church itself. What I felt in Corita Kent’s work was love. Love radiates out of her collages and her words and her rules. She gave so much of herself in her lifetime, and her art reminds us to give of ourselves, too.
Someday Is Now, the Kent collection I viewed at the Warhol, is on display in Los Angeles at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. I implore you to visit before its closure in November, if you have the opportunity. At the LARB, Sasha Carrera, the former director of the Corita Art Center, explores the fascinating life and work of this oft-ignored figure in American art history.
The work of Immaculate Heart College — Corita’s prints, student paintings, and Sr. Magdalen Mary’s raucous confabulations of texts and images known as the Irregular Bulletin — won fans in art circles but disturbed more conservative Catholic tastes. Around this time, the mid-1950s, the cardinal requested that Corita discontinue depicting the Holy Family; she had become enamored of the Abstract Expressionists and Color Field painters and, over time, expanded her idea of what constituted religious art. In a 1977 interview with Bernard Galm, she says, “anything that was any good had a religious quality.”
Once Corita’s social conscience was awakened, these ideas became intertwined with her art…Indeed, her art changed rapidly in the 1960s. By 1964, Corita’s lettering had shifted into great graphic jumbles of words and color. An admirer of Pop Art’s incorporation of ordinary objects, Corita began using billboard signs, bread wrappers, and pop song lyrics — the urban landscape of Los Angeles served as raw material for her prints…In her work, Wonder Bread wrappers became Eucharist wafers.