Mary Corita Kent Biography

Mary Corita Kent

American

1918-1986

Biography

A Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she ran the Art Department at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles until 1968 when she left the Order and moved to Boston. Corita was born Frances Elizabeth Kent in 1918 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She grew up in Los Angeles and joined the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1936, taking the name Sister Mary Corita. She graduated from Immaculate Heart College in 1941 and then taught grade school in British Columbia. In 1946 she returned to Immaculate Heart College to teach art. In 1951, she received a master's degree in art history from the University of Southern California; it is also the year she exhibited her first silkscreen print. By the 1960s, she was using popular culture (such as song lyrics and advertising slogans) as raw material for her meaning-filled bursts of text and color. Corita's work reflected her spirituality, her commitment to social justice and her hope for peace.

By the 1960s, she was using popular culture (such as song lyrics and advertising slogans) as raw material for her meaning-filled bursts of text and color. Corita’s cries for peace in the era of Vietnam were not always welcome. In 1965 her "Peace on Earth" Christmas exhibit in IBM’s New York show room was seen as too subversive and Corita had to amend it. However, her work continued to be an outlet for her activism—in Corita's words: "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."

In 1967 when the Archbishop of Los Angeles, a staunch conservative who was opposed to the Immaculate Heart sisters' proposed updated changes to the teaching system, ordered the removal of all the Immaculate Heart Sisters teaching in L.A. Sister Corita and 90% of the nuns chose of dispense from their vows and open a non-profit organization The Immaculate Heart Community where she taught until 1968.

Corita Kent moved to Boston's Back Bay where she died on September 18, 1986 at a friend's home.

http://www.corita.org/