Corita Kent was an artist, teacher, philosopher, political activist, and possibly one of the most innovative and unusual pop artists of the 1960’s. However, what is perhaps even more incredible is that she was a catholic nun.
As the unorthodox leader of California’s Immaculate Heart art department, her teachings and art making would become her career path for most of her life. With a love of silkscreen printmaking, in 1962 Sister Corita began using popular culture images such as archetypal American consumerist products, grocery store signage and newspaper clippings alongside spiritual texts, song lyrics and literary writings as the textural focus of her work. She could be seen as the positive west-coast alternative to Warhol, possibly pre-dating him.
With fame, came the opportunity to bring her contemporaries to lecture at her teachings. Illustrious speakers including luminaries such as designers Charles and Ray Eames, musician John Cage, graphic designer Saul Bass and film director Alfred Hitchcock. During the countries significant change and unsettled political climate during the 1960’s, Corita’s representation of this unrest coupled with her rebellious and unconventional methodology infuriated certain conservative church leaders. She was dubbed a “guerilla with a paint brush” and left the order in 1969. During the 1970’s, living quietlty and devoted solely to making art, Corita was diagnosed with cancer and six months to live. She entered an immensely productive period creating several hundred serigraph designs for posters, book sleeves and murals as well as the “Love” postage stamp, reportedly the best-selling stamp in history. Corita eventually succumbed to cancer and died seven years later.