You may not be familiar with the story of Sister Mary Corita, the Catholic nun and civil rights activist who created Warhol-esque pop art that acted as a protest of the war and poverty of the 1960’s and 70’s, reflecting spirituality-infused messages of peace, love, and social justice. Her vibrant screen prints, which she continued making up until her death in 1986, have fallen through the cracks of more traditional art history, yet the revolutionary messages in her work, her faithful dedication to hope and love, are re-emerging as critically important and relevant in light of today’s political landscape.
Sister Corita’s work was rooted in a rare authenticity and collaborative innovation, striking a powerful chord at the intersection of the cultural, political, and religious influences of the time, mixing bright, bold images pulled from pop culture with provocative texts and messages of hope. Her work utilized everything from grocery store signs, advertising campaigns, song lyrics, scripture texts, the streets of Hollywood, and quotes from literary icon
s such as Gertrude Stein and Albert Camus, aiming to reframe the questions and concerns of the time in a context of love, hope and peace. She aimed to create work that was inspired by both the human and the holy, that elevated everyday things to the level of extraordinary, that blended pop art influences of the time with the art she witnessed in the world around her. There is a palpable and intense faith present in her art, but it is not just faith in religion or God. It also reflects her devoted faith in the inherent goodness of the human condition, in our power to overcome injustice and love and accept one another.
There is much for us to learn from Sister Corita about the potency of art as peaceful protest, how embracing hope and love in the face of cynicism and apathy resonates deeply and powerfully across divisions. The boldness of her creativity and her courageous spirit inspired future artists for generations, not to mention her emphasis on collaboration created a new recipe for art-making (one of her pieces includes quotes from Winnie the Pooh, the philosopher Kierkegaard, and an ad for men’s cologne). Sister Corita stood up for what she believed in, championing women’s rights and civil rights, advocating for love and humanity in a climate that was divided and fearful, going as far as to sever ties with the church in the late ’60’s when her increasingly political art was frowned upon. She continued her work as a teacher, artist, and anti-war activist, and her brave spirit, reverent hopefulness, and unwavering devotion to love and peace live on through her thought-provoking, dynamic work.
In light of her art’s continued importance and influence, Berlin-based project space The Conversation is proud to present a rare and unparalleled collection of her serigraphs and screen prints from 1959-1979, the two decades during which her rich and revolutionary pop art came roaring to life. Produced in association with the Corita Art Center in her beloved Los Angeles, the exhibit is on display at NADA Miami Beach, the renowned alternative art fair, from December 1st -4th. For more information, visit The Conversation’s website.