The Catholic University of America

To Believe – The Spirited Art of Corita

What:        Exhibit: To Believe – The Spirited Art of Corita
When:        October 26 to December 16, 2012
                        Opening Reception, October 26, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where:      The Catholic University of America
                        John K. Mullen of Denver Library’s May Gallery
                        620 Michigan Ave., N.E.
                        Washington, D.C, 20004
Contact Information: The Catholic University of America’s Department of Art
Details:     To Believe - The Spirited Art of Corita celebrates the inspired and multifaceted career of modern artist Sister Mary Corita (Corita Kent, 1918-1986), most popularly known simply as Corita, the name by which she signed her later works and letters. This exhibition features a selection of works from the artist’s family and from The John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library of The Catholic University of America, including prints, illustrated books, film footage, periodicals, newspaper clippings, personal letters, and other artifacts and memorabilia from the private archives of Corita’s relatives. These works highlight some of the artist’s most remarkable achievements, including her famous Love stamp issued by USPS in 1985; a reproduction of her most widely-viewed work, Rainbow Swatch in Dorchester Massachusetts; and an original handout from one of her earliest and most famous happenings, for Mary’s Day in 1964.
Corita’s highly original approach to life and art both reflected and enabled change in a time of rapid transformation in modern art, Western society, and the Roman Catholic Church. In the late 1950s and ‘60’s, when Corita was first catapulted to fame, these changes included the rise of the Civil Rights movement, the Equal Rights movement, anti-war protests, and the religious reforms following Vatican II -- all causes that profoundly engaged Corita as an artist, a Catholic nun, and a committed crusader for social justice. 
Stylistically, her work helped to transform both religious imagery, and the Pop Art movement. To Pop Art, she brought a new social and spiritual engagement.  As can be seen in my people (1965), Corita juxtaposes a contemporary newspaper clipping with text that relates Jesus’ suffering on the cross to the modern suffering in the world. To religious iconography, she introduced an avant-garde sensibility, using primary and neon colors, boldly mixed graphics, and imagery derived from the commercialized everyday world to convey ideas in a powerfully direct and immediately relevant manner. 
To Believe -The Spirited Art of Corita is offered at a significant moment on the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. This exhibition works in synergy with the conferences on Vatican II held at The Catholic University of America and at Georgetown University this fall, and with the exhibition Celebrating Vatican II - A Spirited Response in Art and Design, currently on display in the Salve Regina Gallery at CUA. It is fitting that CUA should honor the life and legacy of Corita since her visits to this campus in the 1950’s made a profound impression on the students who met her. Corita’s enduring inspiration can still be seen in the vibrant spiritual art of Willy and Pat Malarcher (CUA MFA 1958), Frances Hart (CUA MFA 1957) and Nell Booker Sonnemann (CUA MFA 1959) now on display in Celebrating Vatican II.
Like any true original, Corita’s legacy cannot be measured in just one area. This multimedia exhibit illustrates the evolution of her style over three decades, and charts the artist’s original, transformative approaches to religious imagery, pop art, and social activism.
Sponsored by: Dr. Lawrence Poos, Dean of Arts and Sciences; Department of Art, The Catholic University of America, John K Mullen of Denver Library; and a special thanks to the Corita Art Center for assistance in research & development.