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Corita Kent (aka Sister Mary Corita)

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Corita Kent
Contemporary (post 1945) Graphic Arts
(Fort Dodge, IA, November 20, 1918 - September 18, 1986, Boston, MA)

Frances Elisabeth Kent grew up in a working-class family in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. After graduating from high school, she entered the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart. She joined a teaching order and took the name Sister Mary Corita. The order was one of the first to modernize according to the directives of Vatican II. Kent earned her BA at Immaculate Heart College, a progressive and creative haven, and her MA in art history at the University of Southern California. She returned to Immaculate Heart College to teach art, and she became the chair of the art department in 1964. Her early work was figurative, drawing on motifs from medieval religious art. Kent took a democratic approach to art, and turned to screen printing for its reproducibility and accessibility. After she taught herself the process using a mail-order kit, it became her signature medium. In 1962, after seeing an exhibition by Andy Warhol at Ferus Gallery, in Los Angeles, Kent’s embraced the style of Pop art. She simplified her color palette and emphasized bold shapes. She sought to represent the beauty, joy, and divinity of the everyday, using sources that ranged from Wonder Bread packaging, pop songs, and billboards to scripture and the words of E. E. Cummings and Gertrude Stein. Kent created several hundred serigraph designs, many for posters, book covers, and murals, and she was commissioned to create work for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. During the social upheavals of the late 1960s, her work became increasingly political. She left the order in 1968, due to the strain of balancing her religious life with her advocacy for social justice. She moved to Boston, where she continued to make art until her death. Kent’s work is in the collections of many museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Schlesinger Library, in the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, holds a collection of her papers and early artworks.

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