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.
“At that moment I heard the vague chords of the organ, a sad harmony under an indefinable melody, veritable wails of a soul that wished to break all terrestrial ties. I listened with all my senses, hardly breathing, plunged, like Captain Nemo, in one of those musical ecstasies which took him beyond the limits of this world.”
– Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Doesn’t that sound like a great starting point for a piano piece?
I have always loved reading children’s novels — I was an utter bookworm when I was young — and I recently discovered this fantastic book, 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. It’s chock full of all kinds of books, from picture books to novels thought-provoking for adults as well as kids. I’m embarking on a project to try to read everything on the list. Last week I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; this week, Huck Finn. I think this will be a good way to mine the rich veins of musical and sonic memory.