Beyond the Streets

Corita Kent

Activism

Corita Kent’s vibrant serigraphs drew international acclaim in the 1960s. Born Frances Elizabeth Kent in 1918, she entered the religious order Immaculate Heart of Mary at age 18, becoming Sister Mary Corita, an art teacher and eventually head of the art department at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood, California. She taught her students to use devices she called “finders,” made from empty 35mm slide holders or by cutting a rectangular hole out of a sturdy piece of cardboard, encouraging them to trust their own perspectives and to view life’s details without distraction. Kent’s micro point of view is evidenced here in her pieces “somebody had to break the rules” and “one way.”

Her work evolved from figurative and religious content to prints incorporating advertising images and slogans, popular song lyrics, biblical verses and literature. Throughout the ’60s, Kent’s work became increasingly political, addressing issues such as poverty, racism and social injustice. In 1968, she left the order and moved to Boston. After 1970, her work moved into a sparser, introspective style, influenced by a new environment, a secular life and her battles with cancer. In 1985, Kent was commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service, for which she designed the best-selling “Love” stamp just a year before she died. By the time of her death in 1986, she had created almost 800 serigraph editions, thousands of watercolors and innumerable public and private commissions.

Kilroy