I’ve just started reading Sister Corita Kent’s book on creativity and art-making, Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit. Do you know who she was? A pioneering artist and radical nun whose work, especially in the sixties and seventies, blended pop art and social activism. I grew up around her work, but over the years it seems it’s been forgotten.
There’s a new retrospective of her work at Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art, called Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent. It looks just great – if you’re anywhere near the area, you’d be crazy not to go see this.
Why has she slipped through the cracks? According to curator Ian Berry,
An ‘artist’ was from New York. They were a man; they were an epic, abstract painter. And she wore a habit — she just didn’t look like what the, sort of, movie version of an artist looked like.
Ain’t it the truth.
Her rules for students and teachers, often attributed to John Cage (see above!) are worth looking at every day no matter whether you consider yourself an artist, teacher, student, or simply a human being.
Her book is wonderful, and I’ll be posting more about it here — but here’s what stood out to me in the introduction, by former student Jan Steward who co-wrote the book with Kent in the 1980s:
I know what Corita did for me, and I wanted to know if it were the same for others. I asked the first three people I spoke to about this project, What happened to you in the art department? Two said Corita had saved their lives and the third said Corita had given her life.
That’s the kind of teacher I’d like to be.
In cleaning out my studio, I found this old note to myself. I’m going to look at it every day this year!