Corita Kent, the pop artist, Roman Catholic nun, educator and social justice advocate who created silkscreen prints that burst with color, often told her art students that “doing and making are acts of hope.” Her bold serigraphs appropriated 1960s advertisements, slogans and songs, which spoke of “creating hope.” The way she taught in her classroom did too.
Kent penned the “Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules” in collaboration with her students in 1965. The “ten rules,” as she referred to them, are an ever-timely, gentle and curious guide to engaging with one’s own creative process. They were made into a poster with lettering by David Mekelburg and have come to hang in many classrooms, studios and homes since.
“New Rules Next Week: Corita Kent’s Legacy Through the Eyes of Twenty Artists and Writers” features a collection of ten essays and ten original works of art, each by a contemporary artist, about how the rules apply to their creative practice. The book was made in collaboration with the Corita Art Center in Hollywood, which holds the largest collection of Kent’s art.
“[Kent’s] works have an energy that is not just pop art, and they are not quite what the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s felt like,” Karina Esperanza Yanez writes. “Her art isn’t exclusive or elitist, and it isn’t hyper-conceptualized; Corita’s art is for all of us.”
Kent liked to use the term “maker” more than “artist.” For all who make and feel the “immense pressure to constantly create, post and grind,” these rules “create room for us to pause, reflect, be playful, and rediscover the joy of creating,” Yanez writes.
Natacha Ramsay-Levi, a fashion designer who headed the Chloé label for four years, reflects on the first rule: “Find a place you trust and try trusting it for a while.” The rules begin by insisting “on the confidence that any artist must find, if not for their work, at least for their mental health, in order to oppose the alienation… caused by their own internal criticism as well as the gaze of others.”
Once we trust in our place and our process, we have solid ground to “consider everything an experiment,” as Rule Four says, and count nothing as a mistake, as Rule Six says: “There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.”
Creative director Dan Paley, in his Rule Five essay, writes of how Kent was involved in the reformation of art and religion in the 1960s, and because of her engagement in both, was an outlier in each. Kent resisted the compartmentalization of her life by incorporating a swath of cultural, religious and artistic influence in her work that had the common theme of love. “What if her discipline was love?” Paley asks.
To find one’s discipline means committing to the work for the long haul and to continually find new places to trust. At the end of the rules is a helpful hint for students: “There should be new rules next week.”
“New Rules Next Week” is a nourishing and enlivening guide for artists, makers and students of all kinds. “Be happy whenever you can manage it,” Kent reminds her students in Rule Nine. “Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.”
“New Rules Next Week: Corita Kent’s Legacy Through the Eyes of Twenty Artists and Writers”
Collection by Corita Art Center
Chronicle Books, 88 pages