God broke the mould when he made Sister Mary Corita Kent, a teacher, philosopher, political activist and pop artist with a most extraordinary story. In fact if it were any closer to 1 April you’d be forgiven for suspecting mischief, but it just goes to show, the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Here beginneth a short history lesson. Born in Iowa as Francis Elizabeth Kent in 1918, Sister Mary Corita entered into the church straight out of high school in 1936, and it was upon arrival at Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that she adopted her new name. The nun completed an undergraduate degree at the church’s college in 1941, and was awarded an MA in Art History from University of Southern California 10 years later. During her time in the church, which ended when she received dispensation from her vows in 1968, Sister Mary Corita lived and worked in the Immaculate Heart Community.
Now I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what nuns get up to when not at prayer, but if pressed for ideas I wouldn’t have imagined the hive of creativity that Sister Mary Corita and her fellow devotees had going on. Other nuns and students helped their instructor produce her screenprints, and were guided in their own practice with a teaching style which was celebrated for its progressive methods.
While still a full-time nun (probably not the correct theological term) Sister Mary Corita first favoured an abstract expressionist style, which evolved into pop art in the mid 1960s, adding textual elements to the mix. Upon kicking the habit in ’68, the artist subsequently known as Corita Kent changed direction again, taking a more subtle approach during the ’70s and ’80s.
Let The Sun Shine In is a retrospective event at Circle Culture Gallery, Berlin, curated from the Immaculate Heart archives and spanning all periods of the artist’s career. As well as the screenprint exhibits and fascinating documentary photographs, part of the venue has been turned into a workshop run according to Sister Mary Corita’s teaching principles. There are also documentary photographs and a programme of rarely seen film screenings about her life and practice. The exhibition endeth on 10 May.