Anyone doing a Google search today will be greeted with the Google doodle using art by Corita Kent to pay tribute to the pop artist, who was famous during the ’60s and ’70s and who for many years was a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Today would have been her 96th birthday.
The artist, who died in 1986, was well known for her free-form poster art including the 1985 “Love” stamp for the U.S. Postal Service. Many Catholics are probably familiar with her screen printing of Blessed Paul VI’s words: “If you want peace, work for justice.”
The Corita Art Center in Los Angeles, tucked inside the administrative offices of the Immaculate Heart Community on the campus of the Immaculate Heart School, contains the largest display of her work and also coordinates its exhibitions around the country including the current exhibit at the Baker Museum in Naples, Florida.
A biography of the artist on the Corita Art Center’s website says that her art “reflects her spirituality, her commitment to social justice, her hope for peace, and her delight in the world that takes place all around us.”
The artist, born Frances Kent in 1918 in Fort Dodge, Iowa, grew up in Los Angeles and joined the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1936, taking the name Sister Mary Corita. She received a master’s degree in art history from the University of Southern California in 1951, the year she exhibited her first silkscreen print.
During the 1960s, her art reflected popular culture: song lyrics, advertising slogans and protests against the war in Vietnam.
“I am not brave enough to not pay my income tax and risk going to jail. But I can say rather freely what I want to say with my art,” she said in 1966.
She ran the art department at Immaculate Heart College until 1968 when she left her religious community and moved to Boston, saying she wished to devoted herself solely to her art. During the next 18 years she created many commissioned works and designed more than 400 serigraphs.