Sister Corita Kent: The Teacher I Want to Be

Posted on Mar 9, 2015 in Art, Creative Process

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.

Sunken Gardens at Caramoor through November 2

Posted on Sep 25, 2014 in Art, Sound

It’s been some time since I last posted, and oddly enough, the idea that began as a possible conception of a piano piece has in that year or so taken shape as a very large outdoor sound installation (though I am toying with the idea of creating a piano or chamber piece out of it as well). It’s part of the really wonderful “In the Garden of Sonic Delights” sound art exhibition at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah, New York, and it runs until the first week of November. I’m excited to be in the show with artists such as Laurie Anderson, Trimpin, Annea Lockwood, Bob Bielecki, and Stephen Vitiello.


Here’s a snippet of what you’ll hear as you walk around:

Here’s some of what I’ve written about it:

“Sunken Gardens is a participatory audio installation, in which a new layer of sound — a sonic underwater world full of bubbling noises, creaky technology, sonar sounds, oddly vibrating chords, surprising fragments of text, and so on — is added to the existing landscape. These sounds are inaudible to the naked ear, but visitors, with the help of special receivers amplifying this sound field (through induction loop technology), are able to sonically navigate this invisible soundscape, creating their own musical and narrative mix by walking amidst the many elements which make up its sonic and geographical structure. Sunken Gardens was inspired by a reading of the Jules Verne novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Here’s a nice little video Caramoor produced about Sunken Gardens:

I’m grateful to Stephan Moore and Caramoor for commissioning the piece, Harvard for giving me the time and resources to make it happen, and Ranjit Bhatnagar for his wizardly technical supervision.

Find out more about the In the Garden of Sonic Delights exhibition, or read more about Sunken Gardens here on my site.

Q&A with Betsey in Bettery Magazine

Posted on Nov 14, 2012 in Art, Creative Process, Interview, Photography, Studio

In case you missed this, take a peek at Bettery Magazine, which profiled me last week. Amazing artist, writer & zine chronicler of the East Village, Ayun Halliday asked me:

How can we keep pre-digital communication’s most pleasurable rituals from becoming extinct?

Click here to read my answer, along with tons of other interesting articles. Some of my favorites include how construction zones might enhance a neighborhood, a feature on DIY libraries, and a look at “The Good Gym,” in which runners visit isolated members of their local community.