Wednesday, January 19, 2011


(from 1963)

The new year has started a bit slowly for me (on account of injury! hospital!! yipes!!!), and I feel I am just now catching up to the calendar. Is it too late to be thinking of resolutions for the year to come?  Well, if you too are mulling over your resolutions, good intentions and promises to yourself, you could do a lot worse than considering these rules, from Corita Kent:
Corita Kent, better known as Sister Corita, was an artist, an activist and a nun who was active — indeed, ubiquitous— in the 60's and 70's.  She grew up in Los Angeles and entered the Immaculate Heart convent when she was just 18. She continued her studies, learning printmaking and getting a Master's in Art History from USC.  Her vivid serigraphs combined strong colours, text (in handwriting or inventive typography, way ahead of her time), all combined in bold and startling compositions. 
(from 1968, quote from Peter Beagle)

Corita was also —perhaps above all— a teacher, teaching art for 30 years at Immaculate Heart College.  She was, in fact, my teacher's teacher (Hi, Mrs. Slike!) and so I've always thought of her as my 'art grandmother'. Corita was often spoken of, and our art room was emblazoned with her prints—beautiful celebratory works in their incandescent colours.  They would have been affordable back then;  now they are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, the Library of Congress, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and countless others all around the world.

All these years later, reading excerpts from Learning by Heart (her book on teaching, published posthumously in 1992), I see that many of her ideas and methods were in turn used by my own teacher way back when. It all sounded so familiar, but always seemed fresh and new.  
(from 1968, quote from Theodore Roethke)

She was a woman of contradictions, according to what I've heard and read— someone after my own heart!  Outspoken and candid and charismatic, but nonetheless cloistered, her circle of friends included Charles and Ray Eames,  Saul BassBen Shahn,  Buckminster Fuller, Henry Miller and even Alfred Hitchcock—often they would drop in on her classroom or invite students to field trips.  A person who took vows of poverty and chastity, but famous for both her art and her politics (appearing on the Johnny Carson Show, the cover of Newsweek and in Time Magazine...) 
(from 1965, quote from Ugo Betti)

It would be impossible to do justice to the life and work of Corita in this puny little blog post.  But I urge you to read some of the links which I include below*, if you are interested to know more. And there is a recent book— Come Alive!:  The Spirited Art of Sister Corita, by Julie Ault —a serious and insightful monograph that examines her work in context.   And above all, to look through her collection of serigraphs and other art— it was hard to choose just a few to show!

(from 1970, her book, Damn Everything But the Circus—a silkscreened alphabet larded with quotes and poetry and artwork).  The full quote, from e. e. cummings, reads:

damn everything but the circus
damn everything that is grim, dull, motionless, unrisking, inward turning.
damn everything that won't get in the circle, that won't enjoy, that won't throw its heart into
the tension, surprise, fear and delight of the circus—
the round world, the full existence...

Good thoughts to start the year!!

Eye Magazine (excellent article by her biographer), Design ObserverAIGADear Ada, DrawnDaddy Types, Under Consideration, L.A.Times (a book review), and  ArtNet.

and of course:

Click!  Then get to work....


  1. Hi Maral,
    Just wanted to say thanks for visiting Playing by the book. Don't know how you stumbled upon me but I'll be spending then next few posts exploring children's illustrators and author from Sweden so I do hope you'll find something to enjoy. I've just recently finished a series on Finnish kidlit - if you want to take a look you'll find the posts listed here:
    including an interview with Finnish illustrator Hannamari Ruohonen.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up, Zoe! I'll pop round and have a look....!

    PS. Bienvenue!

  3. I didn't know her work but... I like it! And it's funny to find out she knew Saul Bass, I thought about him as soon I saw the first piece.

  4. Hello M,

    I also love the rules 7, 8, 9...
    Rule 10 is pretty handy too.

    Take care:)

  5. I did not know her,so thank you so much for this post! Happy 2011 dear Maral and I wish you all the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  6. DIANA: Yes, I see a lot of parallels between the work of Corita and Saul Bass— bold and direct and vivid.( Saul Bass's office wasn't far from Immaculate Heart, just a few miles west on Sunset Blvd. !) I also think Paul Rand and Laurie Rosenwald belong to this lineage...

    YOON SEE: I also love rule 7... and would also add rules 4 and 6 too!

    PARISA: I'm so glad you liked it! Happy new year to you too, every happiness!! PS Will you be going to Bologna this spring?


So... what do you think?