Read between the lines to take in Sister Corita’s art 

There is something so uplifting and fresh about the art of Sister Corita that you may find yourself going through the exhibit again and again.

Her brightly colored serigraphs, with words written backwards, sideways and upside down, must be read carefully. From far away, viewers see messages like “HOPE” and “POWER UP.” If you think that’s all, look again.

“E is for Everyone: Celebrating Sister Corita” is at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco. The exhibit, which includes her work from the 1960s, films and correspondence, marks the 25th anniversary of the pop artist’s death.

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit relates to the artist’s close working relationship with Charles and Ray Eames. Sister Corita was chair of the art department of Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood, where she revolutionized the instruction of type design. Her co-teachers at the school, besides the Eames, included John Cage, Alfred Hitchcock and Buckminster Fuller.

“Mostly likely predating Andy Warhol and certainly punk and computer graphics, Corita’s work is regarded today as inherently contemporary, bridging the divide between public service and self-expression, social practice, craft and design,” curator Natasha Boas says.

Boas says the artist’s influence is felt in the works of Ed Ruscha, Pae White and others. There has been a resurgence of interest in her art as younger artists are drawn to the social message of her work.

“She’s the perfect artist for the Obama generation,” Boas says.

Sister Corita, born Frances Elizabeth Kent, joined the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary when she was 18. Believing that art should be a communal celebration, her parades and other gatherings were major events. In 1967, she appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine under the headline, “The Nun: Going Modern.”

In 1968, Sister Corita left the order. Her art continued to reflect her strong commitment to social justice. She created posters and billboards for Physicians for Social Responsibility, Amnesty International and other groups.

Sister Corita also painted a 150-foot rainbow swash on a Boston gas tank on the Southeast Expressway. The design is similar to her famous “Love” stamp, released by the U.S. Postal Service in 1985.

The exhibit includes “CreateRelate,” a limited edition of painted boxes using Sister Corita’s images created by artists at the Creative Growth Center in Oakland, which serves adult artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities.


E is for Everyone: Celebrating Sister Corita

The Museum of Craft and Folk Art, 51 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; closes June 5

Cost: $5 general; $4 seniors; free for those under 18

(415) 227-4888,

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Cathy Bowman

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