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LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT 



Corita Kent 



Interviewed by Bernard Galm 



Completed under the auspices 

of the 

Oral History Program 

University of California 

Los Angeles 



Copyright (c) 1977 
The Regents of the University of California 



This manuscript is hereby made available for research 
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publication, are reserved to the 
University Library of the University of California at 
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
University Librarian of the University of California 
at Los Angeles. 



LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT 

This interview is one of a series, entitled "Los Angeles 
Art Community: Group Portrait," funded by the National 
Endowment for the Humanities and conducted from July 1, 
1975 to March 31, 1977 by the UCLA Oral History Program. 
The project was directed jointly by Page Ackerman, 
University Librarian, and Gerald Nordland, Director, 
UCLA Art Galleries, and administered by Bernard Galm, 
Director, Oral History Program. After selection of 
interview candidates and interviewers, the Program 
assumed responsibility for the conduct of all interviews 
and their processing. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

Introduction vii 

Interview History xii 

TAPE I, SIDE ONE (April 6, 1976) 1 

Birth in Fort Dodge, Iowa--Childhood in 
Vancouver and then Hollywood--A Catholic 
education--Early art interest, education 
and experience — Family life — Alois Schardt, 
a great teacher--Charles Eames — A childhood 
delight in words — Words in prints — Decision 
to become a nun--Missionary work in British 
Columbia--Teaching and learning (Immaculate 
Heart College, Chouinard, Woodbury, USC) — 
Sister Magdalen Mary — Travels: visiting 
New York galleries and collecting European 
folk art--Building the IHC art department — 
The Lord Is with Thee , first important 
print--The Great Men series at IHC — A 
lesson in serigraphy technique--Graduate 
work at USC--Interest in abstract 
expressionism--A visit with Ben Shahn. 

TAPE I, SIDE TWO (April 6, 1976) 29 

Los Angeles art scene in the fifties — 
Ceremony — Mary's Days--Celebration and 
criticism--Organic and dead traditions — 
Social justice themes — Building blocks — 
The folk art collection--Charles Eames — 
Teaching teachers — Early printmaking — 
Working with Harry Hambly — Gathering 
quotations — The Impasse of figurative 
art--From medieval models to abstract 
expressionism--Words as initial ways into 
works — Curled words--Inf luence of other 
religious art — A rejection — Mural for 
Vatican Pavilion, 1964 World's Fair — 
Other contacts with the church--Kent 
family reaction to art work — Influence 
of students--Teaching methods: sheer 
quantity--Emphasizing the creative over 
the analytical--Grading and attendance-- 
Displays for the National Art Education 
Association convention. 



IV 



TAPE II, SIDE ONE (April 6, 1976) 58 

NAEA display--Banner shows for the American 
Institute of Architects and the Los Angeles 
County Museum--Inf luence of the banners-- 
Poor imitations. 

[Second Part] (April 13, 1976) 63 

More on banners — "Survival with Style" 
exhibit--World Council of Churches 
exhibit in Uppsala--The Geneva show, 
1970--Social consciousness: Daniel Berrigan 
and other inf luences--Thoinas Merton — An 
aversion to proselytizing: Jews in class-- 
Commitment expressed through art--Student 
restiveness over group projects--IBM 
Christmas show in New York, 1963--Timidity 
of student activism at IHC--Vatican 
Pavilion Wall, 1964 — The Westinghouse series 
and the Container Corporation ad--A happening 
for the Westinghouse Company meetings. 

TAPE II, SIDE TWO (April 13, 1976) 85 

Happenings--Disassociating creative from 
critical functions--A happening for theologians 
at Yale--Quality--Overcoming the false 
prejudice against "ugliness" : tire companies — 
Living in Boston vs. Hollywood — Use of commercial 
phrases in prints — Luke 2:14,51 and In — Color — 
Calmer colors in recent work — Student restiveness 
over group projects and requirements — Intrusion 
of personal fame--Being an artist vs. being a 
teacher--Decision to stop teaching — Discouraging 
would-be artists — Celia Hubbard and the Botolph 
Group--A Boston tea party, Christmas 1969 — 
Channeling of profits and prestige back into 
IHC — Administrative role in the college--Ventures 
into publishing: Footnotes and Headlines and the 
Believe-In series — Easter "tomatoes." 

TAPE III, SIDE ONE (April 13, 1976) Ill 

More on Mary as "tomato". 

[video] (April 20, 1976) 112 

The Corita Prints gallery — Starting the 
gallery--Adult education classes--Making 



banners — Need for a gallery--Evolution of 
the gallery--Frames and sizes--Jack Mullen's 
promotional work--TYpes of clients--Mary 
Downey's recollection of Corita as a child; 
family's reaction to her becoming a nun-- 
Gallery schedules — The High Cards--Never- 
Again show and other exhibits — A survey of 
representative prints: The Lord Is with 
Thee ; religious art of the fifties; 
Benedictio ; 1^ Love You Very --Words from 
billboards, ads--Printing on pellon--Doing 
prints for money-raising groups — Printmaking 
technique — Watercolors and paintings--Rainbow 
series--Using photographs--Shell writing 
series--Changing use of color--Work from 
Vietnam period. 

TAPE III, SIDE TWO [video] (April 20, 1976) 140 

The "Corita" signature on gallery fence — 
The Greatest Show of Worth (circus alphabet) -- 
Love series--Participation in the local art 
scene--Decision by Immaculate Heart nuns to 
form a lay religious community--Rigidity of 
the Los Angeles hierarchy — Attitudes of the 
Catholic community and the IHC alumni — "A 
Nun Is a Woman" — The decision to leave the 
IH community. 

Index 151 

Index of Corita Kent Works 157 



[Photograph of Corita Kent by Nancy Olexo] 



VI 



INTRODUCTION 

Frances Elizabeth (Corita) Kent was born in Fort 
Dodge, Iowa, to Robert Vincent Kent and Edith Genevieve 
Sanders, November 20, 1918. In order to pursue business 
interests, her father relocated the family in Vancouver, 
Canada, where they remained for several years. He then 
moved to California, where the family settled and where 
Frances attended school. 

Her interest in art was evident when she was a child; 
she enjoyed designing, drawing, and printing. Her enthusiasm 
attracted the attention of an art teacher who encouraged 
her by giving her private art classes after school. Her 
parents also supported her and always urged her to be 
original in her artistic endeavors. 

After high school, Frances entered the Immaculate 
Heart of Mary religious community and took the name Sister 
Mary Corita. She earned her BA from Immaculate Heart 
College in 1941. She also took classes at Otis and 
Chouinard art institutes, and in 1951 she earned her 
master's degree in art history at University of Southern 
California. 

As a member of the Immaculate Heart community and 
college faculty, Sister Corita came in contact with 
Dr. Alois Schardt and Charles Fames; they played a major 



Vll 



role in guiding her artistic and intellectual direction. 
Through them she learned the value of change and 
constancy in art, ideas which concurred with her own 
growing dissatisfaction with the limitations of figurative 
art. Abstract expressionism attracted her, and she 
explored its possibilities, using the insight gained 
from Schardt and Eames. From Mrs. Alfredo Martinez, the 
widow of the renowned Mexican muralist, she acquired the 
skills of serigraphy. 

In 1952 her serigraph The Lord Is with Thee won 
first prize at the Los Angeles County Museum show, 
California State Fair, and many other shows. These 
successes encouraged her tremendously and impelled her to 
continue in the direction she had begun. In her work, 
which has often been referred to as liturgical or religious 
art ("anything that was any good had a religious quality"), 
Corita achieves a freshness and joy. Her goal is to 
synthesize reasoning with the intuitive, and the critical 
with the creative. 

As head of the Immaculate Heart College Department of 
Art from 1964 to 1968, Sister Corita established its art 
program as one of the more progressive in the country. 
She helped begin a folk art collection and expanded it 
through purchases made in Europe and America. She 
initiated the Great Men series, a dialogue series which 



Vlll 



brought eminent artists and thinkers, such as Charles 
Eames, Buckminster Fuller, Peter Yates, and Virgil 
Thomson, into contact with the college community, partic- 
ularly the students of the art department. To further 
enrich their learning program. Sister Corita also involved 
her students in commissioned projects, such as IBM's 
Christmas exhibit in New York, Peace on Earth , Good Will 
to Men . 

During the 1960s and early '70s, Corita ' s friendship 
and esteem for Philip and Daniel Berrigan, Joseph Pintauro, 
and Gerald Huckaby led to her collaboration on several of 
their publications. Through her art, she echoed — and 
supported — their socially and politically conscious state- 
ments. The civil rights movement and the Vietnam war 
were already stimulating the awareness of the Immaculate 
Heart community. This perception was instilled into the 
students' sensibilities and challenged them to speculate 
broad, catholic themes and statements in their discussions, 
and to incorporate them in their works. Such enlightenment 
within the community supported Corita 's artistic statements, 
though they were frequently criticized by many others 
as too radical. 

The I.H.M. community never levied any kind of 
restrictions on Sister Corita ' s artistic endeavors; and 
in 1968, her quest for individualism (which until then 



IX 



had only asserted itself through her art) surfaced in 
her decision to leave the religious community. Her 
separation immediately preceded the community's decision 
to establish its own decrees of renewal; and in 1968, 
she retired from teaching to devote full-time attention 
to her work. 

Corita has executed many commercial commissions, 
and she has made prints for Container Corporation, Reynolds 
Aluminum, and International Graphic Arts Society. For 
the 1964 New York World's Fair, she designed the Beatitude 
Wall , a forty-foot mural for the Vatican Pavilion. 

Corita 's works are in permanent collections at 
several museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum 
in London, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of 
Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Biblio- 
theque Nationale in Paris. Among her better-known 
public works are the 150-foot rainbow for the Boston 
Gas Company's natural gas tank overlooking Dorchester 
Bay, a twenty-foot mural for the Bon Secour Hospital 
in Methoun, Massachusetts, and her series of prints 
published in various national magazines. 

She has been named to the "Top Nine Women of the 
Year" by the Los Angeles Times, and was recognized in 
Harper ' s Bazaar ' s special edition of "American Women of 
Accomplishment. " 



Miss Kent resides in Boston, where she works on 
commissioned projects and designs prints for distribution 
to the twenty-six galleries which represent her across 
the country. 

In the following pages, which consist of a verbatim 
transcript of tape-recorded interviews made with the 
UCLA Oral History Program, Corita Kent recalls her 
experiences as an artist and reflects on her years as an 
instructor at Immaculate Heart College. This interview 
is part of a project, "Los Angeles Art Community: Group 
Portrait," funded through a grant from the National 
Endowment for the Humanities. 

Rebecca Andrade 



XX 



INTERVIEW HISTORY 



INTERVIEWER: Bernard Galm, Director, UCLA Oral 
History Program. BA, English, St. John's 
University, Collegeville, Minnesota. Fulbright 
Scholar, 1957-58, Free University, Berlin, Germany. 
Graduate Study at Yale School of Drama and UCLA 
Department of Theater Arts. 

TIME AND SETTING OF INTERVIEW: 

Place ; Home of Mary Kent Downey, 10847 Morrison 
Street, North Hollywood, and Corita Kent's gallery, 
5126 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood [video session] 

Dates : April 6, 13, 20 [video session], 1976. 

Time of day , length of sessions , and total number 
of recording hours : The sessions took place in the 
early afternoon and averaged two hours in length. 
Approximately four hours were recorded. 

Persons present : Corita Kent and Galm. Mary Downey 
and Gladys Collins participated in the video session; 
Nancy Olexo and Francine Breslin were present to 
operate video equipment. 

CONDUCT OF THE INTERVIEW: 

In preparation, the interviewer studied biographical 
material supplied by the Corita Kent gallery in 
North Hollywood. He also viewed the gallery's large 
collection of her prints and other works and spoke 
with her sister, Mary Downey, and Gladys Collins, 
who together operate the gallery; they offered 
personal recollections of Corita and suggested 
possible questions for the interview. 

The interviewer pursued a full biographical study 
within a chronological framework, beginning with a 
discussion of her family background, childhood, and 
education, then a discussion of her vocation as a 
nun and her companion career as artist and teacher 
at Immaculate Heart College. In the video session 
she was asked to comment on individual art works 
and speak about her decision to leave the Immaculate 
Heart community and how her subsequent life has 
evolved. 



Xll 



EDITING: 

Editing was done by Lawrence Weschler, Assistant 
Editor, Oral History Program. He checked the 
verbatim transcript of the interview against the 
original tape recordings and edited for punctuation, 
paragraphing, correct spelling, and verification of 
proper and place names. The final manuscript 
remains in the same order as the original taped 
material. Words and phrases inserted by the editor 
have been bracketed. 

Corita Kent reviewed and approved the edited tran- 
script. She made minor corrections and supplied 
spellings of names not previously verified. 

Lawrence Weschler prepared the index and other 

front matter. Rebecca Andrade, Oral History Program, 

wrote the introduction. 

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS: 

The original tape recordings, including the video 
tape, and the edited transcript of the interview 
are in the University Archives and are available 
under the regulations governing the use of non- 
current records of the University. 

Records relating to the interview are in the office 
of the UCLA Oral History Program. 



Xlll 



TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE ONE 
APRIL 6, 1976 

GALM: Miss Kent, we usually start these interviews by 

getting some important facts such as when you were born, 

and where you were born. 

CORITA: Um-hmm. I was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1918. 

GALM: What was the month and day? 

CORITA: November 20. 

GALM: And I know from my research that the family didn't 

spend much time there. 

CORITA: No, we left, I think, when I was about eighteen 

months, and we moved to Vancouver. We stayed there for maybe 

a couple of years, because when we then moved to Los Angeles, 

I was not yet ready for school. So I remember that I must 

have been by that time maybe four or five. 

GALM: What had your father been doing in Fort Dodge? 

CORITA: He was working with my mother's father in--what was 

their business? My grandfather had a farm, but he also had 

another business, but I can't think what it was. And then 

another brother came in, and there wasn't enough space for 

both of them. So then my father joined his brother, who 

had a restaurant in Vancouver, And that's why we moved there 

— it was for his work. 

GALM: Had the Kents settled in Iowa? 

CORITA: Yes, my grandmother and grandfather — these were the 



Sanders, now — my mother's mother and father had the farm. 
And the Kents had lived in Minnesota--Minneapolis . And 
how they got together I don't know. [laughter] Missed 
that part of the history. We're terrible about the history 
of our family. 

GALM: Are those English or Irish? 
CORITA: Irish, yes. 
GALM: On both sides? 

CORITA: No, my father, his parents were both born in 
Ireland. And my mother's father was born in Holland, and 
my grandmother was French-Canadian--and then previous to that, 
the family was in Chartres, that side of the family. 
GALM: How many family members preceded you? How many 
children? 

CORITA: We were six, and I was the fifth. 
GALM: So then the family settled in Vancouver, and your 
father would have worked in the restaurant business for a 
while. What brought him to Hollywood? 

CORITA: I don't know what brought him to Hollywood, except 
that I remember we came on a boat. [laughter] Ship, I 
guess, in those days. But we came--it was probably, again, 
a matter of work. But I don't remember what changed to 
bring him down here. But meanwhile, my mother's parents had 
moved out here. My grandfather must have been a very enter- 
prising man in those days, being that age, and had bought 



property in Hollywood. He had, oh, several units, which he 
rented. And then we lived in one of those. And after my 
grandfather and grandmother died, my mother managed that 
until — really, until she died. 
GALM: Where was that located? 
CORITA: It was 6616 De Longpre Avenue. 
GALM: Right in the heart of Hollywood. 

CORITA: Right in Hollywood, yes. Vie used to ... . At 
that time there was a vacant lot where there are now build- 
ings, and across the street was this De Longpre Park, which 
used to be called something else. But I think it's now 
back to De Longpre. It's just one--like a half a block. 
And there was moviemaking going on there, I remember, from 
time to time. So we were that close to Hollywood. That 
was about it. 

GALM: So then when it was time to go to school, where did 
you go? 

CORITA: I went to school about three or four blocks away, 
at the Catholic elementary school. Blessed Sacrament 
[School] , which is on Sunset, and I went there for nine 
years. At that time they had a junior high system. And 
then I went to Catholic Girls High, which is now called 
Conaty High, on Pico street, which was a school for girls 
taught by different communities of nuns. And when I finished 
high school, I went that summer to Otis Art Institute, and 



then the following September [1936], I entered the community 

at Immaculate Heart. 

GALM: How did you decide to go to Otis during the summer? 

CORITA: Well, I had always been interested in art, since 

the time I was really a young kid. 

GALM: How young a kid? 

CORITA: Let's see, how young a kid? I can remember 

always making things, like designing things, paper dolls 

and their clothes, and then drawing. And I had a couple 

of nuns, especially one — in the sixth grade, I think--who 

at that time was taking courses herself at UCLA and took 

quite an interest in my talent; and she gave me the classes 

that she was getting. So it was really great fun. This was 

after school on a private basis, and I think that was the 

real beginning of that kind of encouragement. My parents — 

my father especially had always been very encouraging. But 

both my parents were always encouraging. I took it very 

lightly; I didn't think of it as being anything too much. 

But I was always interested. I did the posters in school 

and all that. 

GALM: What form did this encouragement from your father 

take? 

CORITA: Well, it was interesting because outside of that 

one nun. Sister Noemi--who was really, I think, on to a more 

stable grasp of the field--most of the training I had was 



really very bad. I took art in high school, and we had 
this dear old nun who would let us copy things. We got to 
choose what we were to copy, and that was the extent of 
freedom there. [laughter] I missed the first year because 
I came in as a sophomore, but I think the first year we 
could choose anything from the drawer that had pencil 
drawings, and copy from that. And we would enlarge them. 
The second year was charcoal, and the third year was pen- 
and-ink. And the fourth year, which I never got to, was 
oil painting. [laughter] So it was very .... And I 
remember my f ather--getting back to that question--always 
saying, "Why don't you do something original?" And it just 
never occurred to me. I think as a younger child I did 
things out of my head. But then I got into this kind of 
training, and I thought that that's the way to ... . I 
found in later years, though certainly it was balanced from 
a lot of other things, that it was not a bad thing to have 
as a kind of discipline and control, in a sense. In a lot 
of other ways it was terribly harmful because--certainly it's 
not the way I would go about teaching art to young people. 
GALM: Did your father have some of the artist in him? 
CORITA: Very much so, and I think it never got a chance to 
be developed because — well, I think he was probably meant 
to be a poet. He could play the piano; he was just a really 
fun guy. And he was burdened, I think, by six kids. And 



my mother, too, I think was really probably meant to be 
more a person of my kind of life, who had a chance to 
develop her own thing. So they were both, I think, people 
who were saddled with six kids at a time when Catholics 
had lots of kids--and I guess Catholics still do. [laughter] 
GALM: If they're good Catholics. 

CORITA: And so my father, I think, really would have loved 
to, was really gifted in his own right, and probably 
instinctively saw that in me as something he didn't have a 
chance to develop, and he meant to see, or was hoping, that 
I would. But he died when he was fifty-six, so he really 
didn't have much chance to see what happened--except I think 
he sees it from another space. [laughter] 
GALM: Was there any art in the home? 

CORITA: No, the usual reproductions, you know, that .... 
GALM: It would have been more religious art? 
CORITA: No, not necessarily. I can remember — and I should 
be able to say the artist — that kind of grand nineteenth- 
century picture of the three horses' heads. You probably 
have seen it. 

GALM: Nothing comes to mind. 

CORITA: Well, that, I remember, was in my parents' bedroom. 
Then there were a lot of my own things always framed around 
the house that I had done on my own in high school. 
GALM: Did you sense in later years that the poster work 



that you'd done was really the beginning of the later work? 
CORITA: Never thought of it until you just said so. Uh-huh. 
No. But the first time I used words in a picture was 
probably back in the early fifties. I began very soon after, 
when I began my prints. I began printing in 1951, and it 
was in those early prints that they did have words in. And 
I remember we had this very remarkable professor come to 
teach for us who had come from Germany with the general 
exodus in Hitler years. He had been the director of painting 
at the Berlin museum, I think, and was just a--oh, one of 
the greatest men I've ever known. Besides being a very good 
art historian, he had fathered many of the group, like 
[Paul] Klee and [Vasili] Kandinski, had arranged for some of 
their first one-man shows and that sort of thing, was a 
good friend of [Lyonel] Feininger (they were very close 
friends up until the end) . And I think he was the one who 
first — I always count him and Charles Eames as the people 
who educated me. Even going through school, the teachers 
I had were — many of them were probably splendid, but those 
were the men who really had, I think, the ability to pass 
on concepts, and not so much a string of facts. 
GALM: Was that Mr. Laporte? 

CORITA: No, this is Dr. [Alois] Schardt, who preceded him. 
GALM: And he came out of Berlin? 
CORITA: Paul Laporte also came from Germany. There was 



just I think a year in between when we lost Dr. Schardt 

and found Dr. Laporte. 

GALM: Where did he go from Immaculate Heart? 

CORITA: Dr. Schardt? 

GALM: Yes. 

CORITA: He died. 

GALM: Oh, he died. 

CORITA: Yes, in Christmas of — '56 comes to me, but I 

wouldn't be terribly sure of that date. 

GALM: Did he come directly then from Berlin, or at least 

from Europe, to Immaculate Heart? 

CORITA: No, I think he must have been around for a while 

before we found him. And at that time, he was also teaching 

courses at USC and Claremont. But he was a great combination 

of a real mystic, if I've ever known one, and a genuine 

historian. And he just had a remarkable sense of drama as 

a teacher. He really hated teaching; he just dreaded it. 

Monday morning: "This is no way to begin a week," as he 

always said, and I think felt especially cursed with teaching 

young kids, because their education in his eyes was just so 

abysmal. [laughter] He would talk about things that they 

had never heard of. They just didn't know stories from the 

Bible when he was trying to just tell the content of a 

picture, and he just couldn't believe what they didn't know. 

GALM: Did he think that American education was to blame, or 



was it ... ? 

CORITA: Oh, I'm sure he did, yes. 

GALM: Do you think of any other stories that might illumin- 
ate his personality or his mystical quality? 
CORITA: Well, there was one marvelous scene I have in my 
mind. At that time at school, we were making banners and 
getting people to bring us all their junk jewelry and old 
beads and buttons and things, and we had a great box of them. 
And I remember walking into the room once, where this box 
was. The light was not on, so it was in darkness, and here 
was Dr. Schardt. He was a large man, with white hair, and 
with great presence. And here he was, bending over this box, 
picking up pieces of jewelry. And he said, "I have a tree 
at home" — I don't know what he called it, the tree of wonder 
or the tree of delights or something like that — and he said, 
"I'm looking for pieces to hang on it." And this was a 
branch, a big branch with many little branches. But he had 
that kind of quality that really had reached the simplicity 
that you read about, that you would like to reach — you 
know, the simplicity of a child. And then I remember once 
when Mortimer Adler came to school to speak to the students, 
I was sitting next to Dr. Schardt. And at one point he 
pulled a piece of paper and pencil out of his pocket and 
started, and I thought, "Well, this is sort of the supreme 
honor to Adler, to have Dr. Schardt take down something he 



said." [laughter] I didn't really notice what he was 
doing, but pretty soon he handed me this piece of paper, 
and it was a drawing, a beautifully simple drawing of a 
rose, open, looking full into it. And he said to me, "This 
is the mystical rose. This is going to be my design when 
I make my banner." [laughter] 

GALM: So he wasn't even listening to Adler at all. 
CORITA: And then the next day, the next class we had, this 
very bright young nun came in. She was all agog from Adler 's 
talk, so she said to Dr. Schardt, "Wasn't he marvelous?" 
And Dr. Schardt said, "Well, he is a bright young man," or 
something to that effect. The young nun thought he hadn't 
really understood what Adler had said, so she began to tell 
him what his talk was about, to explain it to him. It was 
a marvelous thing. [laughter] 

But it seems to me that at the same time — back into the 
room where he was choosing the jewelry — Charles Eames had 
come, dropped in for something. He had just come home from 
an exchange program between Germany and the United States. 
The German artists were to come here and bring something 
of America home to Germany, and vice versa. And Charles had 
chosen to do the two churches--you may have seen his film 
called Two Baroque Churches [ in Germany ] ; one is Vierzen- 
Heiligen and the other is Ottobeuren, Franciscan and Benedic- 
tine baroque churches--because he thought that was a marvelous 



10 



example to young architects of real enthusiasm that flowered 
into work, instead of just kind of heady stuff onto the 
drawing board adapted from somebody else's something. So he 
was fresh home from Germany, and he was describing these 
churches, which were of course very familiar to Dr. Schardt 
— the great drama of the architects. I think it was Vierzen- 
Heiligen where the approach is extremely simple farmland; 
and this is the way the film begins, showing the patterns 
of the earth and the growing green things. So that's 
rather plain and flat. And then the facade of the church 
is quite classical and simple, and then you open the door — 
and Charles is describing this — and then you open the 
door, and there's this great burst of, I don't know, like 
theater or something. And they both said at once, "And 
this was no accident!" [laughter] This was real planning. 
And it was so marvelous to see the two of them together, 
because of course Charles was much younger, and Dr. Schardt 
so seldom, I think, met a person who was kind of equal to 
him. He was always the sort of great-grandfather of it all. 
GALM: Well, you mentioned that you were picking up concepts 
from him. What concepts? 

CORITA: I think the main thing I got from him was the sort 
of the notion that change is the constant in art, and that 
each period really came out of the blood and bones and life 
of that time and couldn't be any other. He often took a 



11 



subject matter and would trace it back through the periods 
and show how the same subject matter would be treated in 
completely different manners by different ages, and the 
difference between Northern and Southern Europe, how they 
expressed things. So you got a sense that . . . because, 
as I say, my knowledge was very ... I think I was in the 
middle of my college education at that time. I had gone 
through Immaculate Heart in kind of a fast way, while I was 
teaching. I would take courses at night and on Saturdays, 
and it was sort of squashed in between the teaching and what 
you had to have ready for the next day. And so then when I 
went to Victoria, B.C., it wasn't until I think in the late 
forties that I came home from Canada and then finished my 
M.A. at use. But it was during those years that I was part 
going to school and part teaching that I used to — in fact, 
I think for almost all of Dr. Schardt's classes, I showed 
slides for him because I wanted to be there. I could do 
it and hear him at the same time. But you didn't want to 
miss anything he said. 

GALM: Had your own art developed at that point? I mean, 
could you see his influence upon your art, or ... ? 
CORITA: No, not really, except that I had an exhibit which 
I remember he came to, and he pointed to one of the pictures, 
one of the very early ones [ Benedictio ] — well, this was a very 
early-on exhibit — that had words in it. And he said, "Ah, 



12 



that is very good." And that from him was really fantastic, 
[laughter] because he really didn't ever say anything much 
about anything that was around. He said, "I think you have 
done something very special"--or words to that ef f ect--"with 
the words, the word and the other forms." That didn't 
strike me--I mean, I didn't then start doing words and form 
together because he said that. But a number of years later, 
that came back to me, and I thought, huh, you know, I went 
ahead and sort of developed that way. And how much that 
small word of praise was unconsciously influential, I don't 
know. 

GALM: What did words mean to you as a child? Did they have 
special meaning? 

CORITA: Yes, I always loved to read. I just was a great 
reader. 

GALM: I'm trying to picture Hollywood at the time, whether 
it was as billboard-crazy as it is today or not. 
CORITA: No, no, I think, especially our little neighborhood. 
It was kind of a simple little neighborhood, almost like this, 
and there really were no billboards, say, between home and 
school, [laughter] or between home and Holly-. ... Of 
course, Hollywood Boulevard was a very familiar stretch to 
me. It wasn't quite as junky as it is now, but pretty much 
so. It was never very great architecture. [laughter] But 
I don't think the billboards or magazines — probably before 



13 



the picture magazines, certainly .... But as you say, 
the fact that I had really — I think I always loved printing. 
In fact, I remember a friend in high school--we used to 
have kind of friendly rivalry going on together, and I 
remember she said to me on one occasion, "You can print, 
but I can draw." [laughter] So even my drawing ability 
wasn't quite up to snuff — or she thought so. 

GALM: Did you have any calligraphy in high school, or would 
that come later? 

CORITA: No, I really developed the — I mean, the posters I 
just did without very much, if any, help from anybody. 
The actual calligraphy came — well, there was a time when 
I met Martin Oberstein, who is a calligrapher , and he gave 
me a lesson. He'd dropped into the school for something and 
showed me how to use broad-edged pen. So from then on I 
was on my own and learned how to do that, and then I taught 
it. But then finally, I suppose from seeing posters and 
reproductions of posters, I got ideas of there being differ- 
ent possibilities of using letter forms. And I always think 
of the letter forms as much objects as people or flowers or 
other subject matter. I don't think of them as anything 
different. I think a picture with all words is as much a 
picture as something with abstract shapes or recognizable 
shapes. I think it's all a matter of the spacing and the 
kind of totality of the picture that either looks good or 



14 



doesn't look good. 

GALM: When you were doing these posters as a child, did 
you always like to hand-letter them, rather than using a 
form or cut-out letters? 

CORITA: I think I always hand-lettered them because that 
was the only way available to me, and I probably hadn't 
thought of any other way of doing it. I would illustrate 
them from time to time, too, so it wasn't just printing. 
GALM: Why don't we pick up with the chronology? At what 
point did you decide that you wanted to become a nun? 
CORITA: That was just after high school. 
GALM: So it wasn't something that was always . . . ? 
CORITA: Yes, in fact, my very closest friend was just 
utterly shocked when I told her, during the summer after we 
graduated, that I was going to enter this community. So 
it was a well-guarded secret. I don't remember keeping it 
a secret, but I guess I just didn't talk about it. And she 
said, "When did you make up your mind?" And I said, "I 
don't know. I think I just always have wanted to be." 
GALM: Had anyone preceded you into the order at that point? 
CORITA: Yes, it was a typical Catholic family. I had an 
older brother [Mark] who was a priest and an older sister 
[Sister Ruth] who had entered that same community. These 
were the nuns who taught me in grammar school. 
GALM: How much older is the older sister? 



15 



CORITA: Let's see, I'm going to be fifty-seven this year, 

and she must be sixty-four. 

GALM: So having religious in the family was sort of a 

common thing, growing up? 

CORITA: Oh, yes, and I'm sure my parents had the general 

idea that this was a great thing to be. 

GALM: In one interview or article, it mentioned that you 

had wanted to become a missionary sister. Is that accurate? 

CORITA: No — you can't really believe all these things. 

[laughter] 

GALM: Well, that's why I asked — I thought we would at 

X6u5'C • • • • 

CORITA: In fact, I remember the community opened a house 
in British Columbia, in which half of the nuns taught regular 
Canadian children in the elementary school in the city, and 
the other half taught on an Indian reservation. Everybody 
was just dying to go, and I wasn't. I thought there must be 
something wrong with me because I hadn't the slightest 
desire to go. And then during that first year that that 
mission had opened, one of the sisters up there became ill, 
and I was sent up to replace her. All through that whole 
period of my younger days in religious life, whenever I was 
changed from one house to another house, I just really hated 
to leave where I was; and then when I got to the new place, 
I hated to leave that. But so I did teach in Canada. I 



16 



taught at the Indian school for about — let's see, I was 
up there three and a half years, and I think I taught a 
year and a half there, and the rest of the time at the 
Canadian school. 

GALM: When you decided to enter the sisterhood, had you 
seen yourself as becoming an elementary teacher? 
CORITA: No, in fact, it's always very humorous to me when 
I look back because I was quite sure that I couldn't teach. 
I had a low estimation of my intelligence, and I thought 
I really wouldn't ever be able to teach. And yet, that was 
the only thing these nuns did. 
GALM: You couldn't even be a cook-sister. 
CORITA: No, I had no notion of being a cook-sister, 
[laughter] I mean, I was very young, and that was how 
unrealistic I was. As a matter of fact, I began teaching 
almost as soon as I entered because I somehow was always 
chosen to go when they needed a replacement, even though 
I hadn't arrived at the teaching stage yet (because in the 
first year, year and a half, you were being trained, and 
you didn't teach at that time except in cases of extreme 
emergency) . So I really got my beginning in teaching in a 
very rough way because I had no training and not much 
education at that time, having just finished high school. 
GALM: Did that make it better or worse? 
CORITA: Both, I think. [laughter] Yes. 



17 



GALM: So then the chronology after that: Did you get a 

degree from Immaculate Heart? 

CORITA: Yes, I got my B.A. from Immaculate Heart. And 

then I began taking courses. I took courses at Chouinard, 

and I took one summer at Woodbury and, I guess, several summers 

at use, and then I went to Canada. And I think it was then 

about '45 when the accreditors came to the college. At 

that time there was just one full-time member of the art 

department, and the other people were coming in from USC and 

UCLA to teach a class or two. And the accreditation group 

said that there would have to be at least two permanent 

members. So, I guess, of the community, I was the one who 

had the most points toward a degree and apparently the most 

talent, so then I was sent back down. I taught part time 

at the college and finished at USC whatever units I needed 

to complete the degree. 

GALM: Why were you sent, or why did you select USC? 

CORITA: I think the general idea was that Sister Magdalen 

Mary, who was the sole member of the art department, had 

gotten her training at UCLA, and she thought it would be a 

good idea to have a difference, if there was a difference 

between the two schools. 

GALM: Were you being then sort of trained as an art 

historian, or as a . . . ? 

CORITA: Well, I got my degree in art history, but mostly I 



18 



think it was because by that time, we really didn't respect 

any art teachers, [laughter] and so thought that the art 

history would be a better background, and that I could take 

care of the art — you know, what do you call them? — studio 

classes, so to speak, on my own. But there were, of course, 

studio classes. I mean, I did take studio classes along with 

the history classes. 

GALM: When did Sister Magdalen Mary come to the department? 

CORITA: Goodness. She is about ten years older than I am, 

and she was probably there — oh, I don't really know; I'm 

just making a rough guess — maybe from five to ten years 

before. 

GALM: What status did the department have at that point? 

CORITA: I suppose about the same as the other departments 

in the college. I think it was young and struggling, with 

some good teachers coming in and out, and Sister Magdalen 

Mary was an excellent teacher. But always, as far as students 

were concerned, there were always very few students. In 

fact, it wasn't really till the last, oh, I'd say, ten 

years that we began to get art majors in greater quantity. 

It was always rather a small department in comparison with 

the other departments. 

GALM: What would you do, just give a B.A. with a major in 

art? 

CORITA: Um-hmm. 



19 



GALM: Had Sister Magdalen Mary been handling the painting 

and studio classes, too, at that point? Or some of them? 

CORITA: Yes, and supplemented by outside visiting professors 

from UCLA and USC. 

GALM: Again, in my research I'd read that she wasn't an 

artist herself. 

CORITA: No. Of course, she painted while she was in school, 

but then she didn't ever really get started doing anything 

on her own as far as painting. 

GALM: What kind of teacher was she? 

CORITA: She was a marvelous teacher; she really was — a 

great teacher. In fact, I think she taught me a lot of 

things about teaching. We used to spend some time, Sundays 

usually, and pin up the students' work from our different 

classes and just talk about them; and I think those were 

great learning experiences for both of us and sharpened us 

from both sides. 

And then, let's see, she and I went to Europe for 
about three months at the end of '59 and beginning of '60. 
By that time we had begun the folk art collection, but then 
we just added tremendously to it. She was a just a fantastic 
businesswoman, as far as getting good bargains and finding 
good things. So we brought home just literally truckloads 
full of things, and that was the great bulk of the collection, 
to which she then became very much attached and interested 



20 



in. And her interest gradually went in that direction, I 
think even away from the teaching. And then I — let's see, 
'68, I left the college in '68, and I'm trying to work 
backward to think — I was probably head of the department 
about maybe five years, or does it say someplace authorita- 
tively? It would be a help. [laughter] 

GALM: I think you were head of the department for about 
four years. 

CORITA: Four years. So then it was probably about in '64 
that Sister Magdalen Mary decided to go to England and spend 
some time collecting and studying. She had not been very 
well, and I think she also wanted a change. So at that 
time, I was just the obvious next one, and so I became the 
head of the department until the time I left, which was in 
'68. 

GALM: How did you work together then to build the department 
from what it had been to what it became? 

CORITA: Well, I think we were both demons for work, and I 
was probably a little worse. I used to give very outlandish 
assignments, which I kind of gasp at now. But, well, I 
figured then, and think perhaps differently now, that there 
were people of different interests in the class, and that 
those who were really interested would be challenged, and 
wouldn't, wouldn't do it anyway; and so, somehow or other, 
things would level out. 



21 



But then, I think it was in '51, because that was the 
year I finished at SC — the last four units I took were 
optional, and I could take anything at that point because 
I didn't need anything except the numbers, so I took a 
printmaking class. I had done some silk-screen work on my 
own, but not to any great extent, and so I decided to just 
take the class and do serigraphy the whole time for those 
four units. And I always got teased because they always 
called it my class at home, because I very seldom went to 
class. I would stay home and work and then go in and show 
them because it was simpler that way. And during that course 
I made two prints. And the summer following that, I looked 
at one of them, and it was really so bad that I started 
adding colors on top of it, making a completely new print, 
which is that print hanging over there called The Lord Is 
With Thee . It turned into a completely different picture 
because underneath it was a picture of the Assumption, with 
a very, as I remember it, a kind of fashion-modelish lady 
in the center. It was a very unwhole picture. And the 
reason that that's kind of historic for me in a way is that 
we decided to enter it into the County Museum show where 
they had a show of prints, paintings, and sculpture in 
different divisions. And it won the first prize in the 
print division, which was just sort of overwhelming. And 
then that year, I entered it into a number — it won the first 



22 



prize at the Sacramento State Fair and a number of other 
places . 

And so then we got into the exhibition work. We used 
to send the students' work to exhibitions along with my own 
things. We would go to the exhibit and then get to know 
the other printmakers and trade prints with them. So we 
began a print collection and got into the art world, so to 
speak, more than we had been before. And then yearly, 
around Christmastime, we would to to New York, by way of 
giving lectures along the way to pay for the trip, and see 
what in those days .... This was in the middle fifties 
to the middle sixties, before art got from New York out here 
so fast, or before Los Angeles was the kind of a center it 
is now. What was happening in New York was a number of years 
— at least a couple, maybe one--ahead of Los Angeles. So 
we would go to see what was going on at the Museum of Modern 
Art and the galleries, and do a little collecting, and, as 
I said, lecturing at different universities and schools as 
we went along the road. 

GALM: Were these mainly Catholic schools at that time? 
CORITA: No, not necessarily, not necessarily. It was where- 
ever somebody had heard about us and wrote and asked. So I 
think that helped extend us into the art world. 

And then I remember, I initiated a program, which 
probably extended over the last two, maybe three years that 



23 



I was at the college. We called it our Great Men series, 
which of course we wouldn't call it today! But I just 
invited people like Charles Eames and Peter Yates and, oh, 
a number of different people. We had--who was the great 
director who discovered Marlene Dietrich? 
GALM: [Josef] von Sternberg. 

CORITA: Von Sternberg, yes. And I think they were all 
partly amused. Buckminster Fuller was another, and Virgil 
Thomson. I just wrote to them and said, "We have this 
program of great men; we would like you to be one of our 
great men and come." We asked them not to prepare a talk 
but just to come and tell whatever they wanted to tell 
about their own life, how they had gotten to where they 
were, and then to answer questions from the students. By 
this time, I guess Sister Magdalen Mary had left, but we 
had always felt a need to bring outside people in. For 
a long time we were limited to a faculty of three, and we 
thought bringing other people in to talk and lecture would 
be broadening for the students. And then we had the students 
keep their Friday afternoons free of any classes, and we 
went on field trips or had somebody come to talk to the 
students. We did that for, I suppose, the last ten years 
I was there. 

GALM: Now, this Great Men series would have been for the 
entire student body? 



24 



CORITA: Well, no. We wanted to keep it rather small, so 
we had the art majors, and we would give like two invita- 
tions to each department, so that they could send members; 
and of course anybody from the faculty was always free to 
come. So it was a little bit exclusive. 
GALM: Yeah, it sounds it. [laughter] 

CORITA: And we taped those, and those tapes are around at 
the college someplace, I'm sure. They were really marvelous, 
marvelous nights. 

GALM: Who taught you printmaking at USC? Do you recall? 
CORITA: Yes, I recall him, and I'm trying to think of his 
name. He later went to New York to teach, and — [Michael] 
Andrews? Andrews comes, and I'm not sure. I have a terrible 
memory. 

GALM: Much of an influence on you, or just mainly in 
teaching techniques? 

CORITA: No, not really. In fact the person who really 
taught me serigraphy is Mrs. Martinez. I don't know if 
you're familiar with Alfredo Martinez, who was one of the 
Mexican muralists. He did murals, but in his spare moments 
he would do silk-screen prints, and he did them on newspaper, 
on anything. And then when he died, his widow decided that 
she wanted to perpetuate his work. So she went to one of 
the art schools, learned the technique, and reproduced a 
number of his paintings. And so going back, I'm not sure 



25 



if he did silk-screen work himself or if these were all 
his wife's. But I remember before I had taken the class 
at SC, I had a silk-screen kit, and I wanted to teach the 
students how to do this. So I began experimenting, and I 
did — in fact, my first work was a little card with callig- 
raphy on it. I was using the photographic process because 
that was the process described in this little kit, and I 
got along fine through the developing and the printing 
and then the printing on the silk screen. But when it came 
to the removing of the stencil from the silk screen, I 
evidently didn't have the proper solvent. I was scrubbing 
away one day at this screen, trying to get it off with 
different things, and one of the students came and said, 
"I know a lady who knows how to do silk-screen work. Would 
you like to meet her?" And I said, "Sure." So she came 
over and in an afternoon just told me all she knew. She 
showed me some things, and that was really all you needed 
to know. It's a very simple process. And from then on, 
with experiment and with just doing it, I think I learned 
the rest. But I don't think I really learned anything new 
at SC. It was just a time to be able to make prints. 
GALM: And to get your degree. 

CORITA: And to get my degree, right. Don Goodall was 
really a very good sport. I'll always remember him kindly 
because I remember looking at the program — see, I hadn't had 



26 



an art major as an undergraduate--looking at the require- 
ments for a master's and thinking, "My God, this is going 
to take me six years or so to fulfill all these require- 
ments." So I went to see him, and I told him what I had 
been doing, what I had done. And he checked over and said, 
"Well, you don't need this, and you don't need this, and 
you don't need this"--because in experience, I had them, and 
he was great enough to recognize that. So actually it was 
cut down considerably, and I was able to finish. It 
only took me eleven years to get my master's all in all. 

[laughter] But that was along with teaching and all; it 
was a very minor issue on the side. 
GALM: Was it mainly summer work? 
CORITA: Yes, yes. 

GALM: Was there anyone during that period, then, as a 
teacher, who you recall as having influence, or whose 
work you admired? 

CORITA: No, not really. I think what influenced me much 
more were things I would see at exhibits. And even though 
we had some professional painters with names at USC , I 
don't recall their ever being enough to my taste to influence 
me. Sort of went through it to get the degree. 
GALM: In New York, who were you seeing at that time? 
CORITA: Well, the people I remember were people like 

[Robert] Motherwell, [Adolph] Gottlieb, and that whole 



27 



abstract expressionist school. I guess that was at its 
peak when we began our exhibit-going. I think that I kind 
of played back and forth, but I always come back to that 
kind of thing. I think I feel very much at home with it, 
with the loose forms and the simplicity. Mark Rothko was 
a great influence, I feel. 
GALM: What about Ben Shahn? 

CORITA: And Ben Shahn, yes--I love Ben Shahn. 
GALM: Did you eventually then meet him? 

CORITA: Yes. At that time, I had done a print for the 
International Graphic Arts Society, which was a group in 
New York organized to help people collect, people who 
wouldn't know how or wouldn't go to museums. They would 
send out a catalog, and they would commission artists to 
do a series for them and sell them at a lower than ordinary, 
lower than gallery price. So I had done one or two commis- 
sions for them, and Theodore Gusten, who was the head of 
that, was a friend of Ben Shahn ' s . And through him we met 
him, had a marvelous afternoon. 



28 



TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE TWO 
APRIL 6, 1976 

GALM: You were talking about your meeting, your wonderful 

afternoon, with Ben Shahn. 

CORITA: Yes, I remember one of the things he said was 

that — I think it was the first or second time we'd been 

to New York, and he said he so envied us, seeing New York 

for the first time as adults. He'd grown up there and 

knew it all, but he said it would be such a great experience 

to come on it fresh, as an adult. 

GALM: How old were you at about that time — thirty? 

CORITA: I would have been probably in my thirties, maybe 

midthirties. 

GALM: Was there anything to follow in the Los Angeles 

art scene at that time? 

CORITA: Not really much, as I remember; or, again, as I 

say, it wasn't exciting to us because we would see things 

in the art magazines and they wouldn't be here, so we would 

have to find them in New York. But I'm not sure. I think 

we were having those Friday afternoons, and we of course 

always found good shows at the County Museum or the Pasadena 

Museum or galleries. We used to spend a lot of afternoons 

at La Cienega when that got organized into the gallery 

district; we'd just go up and down. 

But we were really very broad in the sense that our 



29 



interest in the so-called fine arts. We'd consider going 
to the beach and flying kites an artistic experience, or 
watching the sun set with some kind of ceremony. But it 
didn't matter to us whether it was a shop with foreign 
imports of folk things, whether they were--it didn't have 
to be paintings. 

GALM: You mention watching a sunset with ceremony. When 
did the concept of ceremony enter your life, or had it 
always been a part of your life? 

CORITA: Well, the school had always had a day in May which 
they called Mary's Day, and it was a very dismal affair. 
The students wore their caps and gowns, and they would each 
carry a calla lily, and we would have a ceremony. They'd 
go up and put the calla lily in a vase in front of the 
statue of Our Lady, and I'm sure they must have had Mass 
and processions and said the rosary and sung hymns. And 
it must have been about in '62 or '63 that a new nun had 
charge of it, Helen Kelley, who is now the president of 
the college. This job was sort of handed over to her from 
somebody else. And she was probably the last person in 
the world to have that — she has great appreciation for 
ceremony, but this whole thing didn't fit with her. And 
I can remember that there was a long line of girls in the 
corridor, and they were supposed to go someplace. And I 
guess the leader was kind of asleep, and Kelley just grabbed 



30 



her and started her in a direction, like you would a line 
of little kids. Instead of just thinking how to say it, 
she thought the easiest thing to do would be just to get 
her started and everybody would follow. So I think it was 
over a meal that I teased her and said how hilarious I 
thought it was, and she said, "How would you like the art 
department to take over Mary's Day?" [laughter] I said, 
"Sure." 

So in 1964 was the first big one we did, then. And 
I started out just brainstorming with the students. I 
asked if they had a day that they could do anything they 
wanted with some kind of ceremony, what would be good things 
to do? You know how kids can come up with marvelous ideas. 
So we just took them all in and discussed them and tried 
to find ones that were possible, and we put together some 
great days. And those have been all documented by film-- 
or most of them. We have some beautiful films on them, made 
by Baylis Glascock. 

But before that time, we had been interested in a lot 
of objects which had been ceremonial objects. So that was 
always there, the kind of folk art thing again. And I'd 
always been fascinated with the idea that a lot of the 
Italian professional artists--! may be wrong historically, 
but I think in general [I am] right — that some of the people 
like da Vinci or Michelangelo were in charge of the city's 



31 



festivities and did the costumes and the floats and what- 
ever they had. So that they were really considered an 
art. 

GALM: Was there anything locally at that time that gave 
you ideas for the celebration for Mary's Day? 
CORITA: I remember this psychologist friend who wrote and 
said he always thought that I had preceded and initiated 
the be-ins and the happenings that came after. Now, I 
don't know, historically, whether they happened first or 
we happened first. But it was about the same time. 
GAIiM: But in other words, you weren't, in a sense, copying 
anything? 

CORITA: No, it came out of this very sterile ceremony that 
had gone on for many years. [laughter] And we came in as 
good amateurs come in, with the idea that everything was 
possible. And then I would turn all my classes over to 
that, and they would make things for it, for the rest of 
the school. But it took a fantastic amount of organization 
because you were handling 500 or 600 people who really 
weren't--we tried to get them in on the preparation as much 
as possible by inviting people from different departments 
to come and discuss with us, but as far as the actual labor 
was concerned, some of them came, but they had their own 
interests and didn't have all that time. The art majors 
were doing it for credit, and so they had to do it. And 



32 



then we had adult classes, and they did wonderful things 
for it, too. 

GALM: And this preceded the [Renaissance] Pleasure Faire, 
too, didn't it? 

CORITA: Yes, the Renaissance Faire, yes. 

GALM: Because there seems to be a bit of a similar spirit. 
CORITA: Um-hmm, yes. 

GALM: A spring orgy, I guess. [laughter] 

CORITA: Right, a spring orgy, right, yes. Yes, we always 
centered it around — well, I think there were several parts 
to it. I thought the assembling was very important. I 
remember being in New York once, on our way home from Europe, 
I think, the day of the Chinese New Year, And somebody got 
us a little balcony in a store right over the beginning of 
it. And it took them--if you've ever watched them--about 
a couple of hours to assemble. They were setting off fire- 
crackers and milling around and talking and having a great 
time before the actual procession with the dragon got 
started. And I thought, "This is such a marvelous concept, 
just the getting together informally with some kind of 
anticipation of what was to come." So that was always a 
very important part. And we always had some kind of a move- 
ment--left over from the procession, I suppose — from one 
part of the campus to the other, and then always a meal, 
like out on the grass. And then we usually ended up with 



33 



Mass, or had Mass in the center, and tried to make it as 
special as we could within the confines of the L.A. laws, 
[laughter] 

GALM: Were the festivities ever the object of criticism? 
CORITA: Oh, yes. Every year. 
GALM: Oh, every year. [laughter] 
CORITA: Every year, yes. 
GALM: You could anticipate .... 

CORITA: In fact, Helen Kelley, who was (and still is) 
president of the college, was really a great person because 
she--well, for many reasons, but also because she would take 
the gaff. But we got it from inside, too, because some of 
the older nuns just felt bad that we weren't saying the 
rosary and weren't doing some of the things that had been a 
part of it and just saw to it that it was beautifully done. 
And we would try always to do things that wouldn't cause 
criticism, but — I mean, that was always kind of in the back 
of my mind, I'm sure. But of course, anything you would do 
would cause criticism because at that point everything we 
did was wrong. [laughter] We couldn't win for losing, so 
we might as well have a good time doing it. 
GALM: What form would the criticism take? 

CORITA: Well, the cardinal's office would call the president's 
office, and say, you know, "We hear such and such went on." 
And then some of the very conservative alumni members who 



34 



came were very upset because as conservatives are, the 
first little sign of change is a real threat to them. 
GALM: So they saw it as perhaps being sacrilegious, 
or ... ? 

CORITA: Yes, and different from what it had been in their 
day, I think, was at the very base of it: that it wasn't 
their college anymore. 
GALM: You'd broken with tradition. 

CORITA: Yes, yes. And you see, we had a very different 
notion of tradition. [laughter] 

GALM: Well, in a sense, a new tradition was established. 
CORITA: Well, yes, in that traditions are what you pass on, 
but in the passing on, one would hope they grow and not stay 
the same, because if it stays the same, it's dead. This 
had been repeated year after year after year. We would try 
to have a theme each year, and in those years especially, 
I think there was so much happening that it was usually a 
social justice theme underlying it. Like one year we 
really did a big bang-up thing with billboards, collecting 
all the billboards we could find with food; and the whole 
thing had to do with being aware of the fact that much of 
the world didn't eat. And this worked into the program. 
So in preparation for that, the students would collect gobs 
of quotations. I remember one time we decided to do a lot 
with flowers--! think every class embroidered banners with 



35 



flowers--! think every class had to do a flower banner of 
some find. And in one class, I assigned each person to do 
500 twelve-inch squares that had a bouquet of flowers on 
them. And they could do it any way they wanted. I said 
they could contact elementary-school teachers and get them 
to have their whole classes do one, each do one; and so 
there were many, many ways. They could do them in multiple, 
do a print, do them lots of ways. So then we pasted these 
on the sides of cartons that size and used them as huge, 
big building blocks, just stacked them up in great piles 
behind the altar. 

GALM: Did you get that building block idea from Charles 
Eames? 

CORITA: We did indeed, yes. We went out to his house one 
time on a field trip. He had had his grandchildren visiting 
him, and to entertain them, he had bought them 100 cartons 
of about twelve inches square and made marvelous blocks. 
And then he had a rope hanging from the ceiling with a noose 
down toward the floor, and you could put your feet in it and 
swing, pile them up, and knock them all down. But when we 
brought this class, they all used them to sit on. We were 
doing boxes for quite a while after that in different ways. 
GALM: Does that mean your IBM exhibit would have been a 
different use. 
CORITA: Yes, right, exactly. 



36 



GALM: How did the folk art collection start at Immaculate 
Heart? 

CORITA: I don't know. I think we always had the idea that 
the students should be surrounded by real art. And we 
found a way of gathering prints. But we really had 
practically no budget at that time. So we started collecting 
very simple little things, like Japanese paper things, 
objects that were beautifully made and were part of some- 
body's tradition. And I think I always felt more kind of 
in tune — well, I think I always sort of resented the division 
between the fine and the folk art, thought that [the folk 
arts] were just as fine, and the fine arts just as folk. 
GALM: Was that shared by both of you? 
CORITA: Um-hmm. 

GALM: Was it reinforced then by Charles Eames? 
CORITA: Oh, yes. 

GALM: When did he enter the picture? 

CORITA: Let's see, it must have been quite early on, 
probably around the early fifties, or maybe the late forties, 
because I know I was teaching the kindergarten, first, 
second, and third grade in the training school. We had a 
training school at that time where the college students did 
their practice teaching. They were very small classes; I 
had these three classes in one room. I would do that during 
the daytime, and then from four to six, I guess, I taught 



37 



college classes. One of them was interior design. And I 
didn't have the ghost of a notion what to do in a class of 
interior design. I'd never had one; when I did have one, it 
didn't really help. [laughter] So one of the things I 
thought to do was to take the students around to see new 
homes that were built and, if possible, to try to get the 
architect to be there to talk about his work. So I remember 
having seen Charles's house, which was new at that time — 
fairly new; I think it was built in '51 or so. I had seen 
it in Arts and Architecture , and we had met John Entenza, 
who at that time was the editor of Arts and Architecture . 
I think I did covers for him, and the students did covers 
for that magazine at that time. So I think I might have 
called John Entenza and asked him how we could get the 
students into that house; and either he suggested it or I 
thought of it myself, just calling Charles and asking him 
if I could bring students out. And he said, "Sure." Life 
wasn't so hectic for him in those days. [laughter] We 
were really lucky. So we used to do that every year, and 
sometimes twice a year. 

I always taught a class in the summer for people who 
were going to teach. That was really one of my joys 
because I thought it was a great chance to get into the 
schools, because those people would all be ordinary 
elementary-school teachers. I thought they would do a lot 



38 



less harm if they had been through a good course. And 
really it turned out to be a class, as so many of the 
students have always said, a class in how to teach. Because 
I would just throw things at them to do that they had 
never done before, and they could see how that was possible, 
rather than showing you how to do everything. 
GALM: You mentioned Eames — did you try to get in with 
[Richard] Neutra and [Rudolph] Schindler? They would have 
still been around. Did you make any effort to ... ? 
CORITA: Yes, we saw Neutra and went to his house. And 
Schindler, no. We may have gone to houses he built, but 
I don't think that we met him. 

GALM: So the relationship with Eames was mainly, then, 
through the class. Did you have a personal relationship 
then, too, that continued? 

CORITA: Well, he was one of our Great Men, and we saw 
him from time to time. I think I've only been out there 
to the house socially about, maybe, three or four times, 
but then he doesn't do much of that, anyway; and I've 
been to the studio a number of times. Then he was a great 
help to us in just sitting around and talking when we were 
thinking of building a college at Claremont. He agreed to 
be in on the thinking part of it for us. So by that time 
he had a great affection, I think, for what the art depart- 
ment — because that's how he got to know the college--had 
done and was very enthusiastic about it. 



39 



GALM: Did his wife always sit i n on these meetings, or did 
he operate individually? 

CORITA: Let's see, no. When he came — he used to come by 
himself, and then when we would go to the studio or the home, 
Ray would always be there. 

GALM: Okay. Why don't we go back to your work, then, 
how it developed from this first one in the corner onward, 
[laughter] 

CORITA: Well, as I say, I think the success at the exhibi- 
tions gave it quite an impetus, that I may never have done 
anything if it hadn't been for that. You know, I may have 
just taught also and not done work on my own. But after 
that, I used to make a series of prints each year. The 
only time for it really was between summer school and the 
beginning of fall school. So in the beginning, it was a 
couple of weeks, and I would make one or two prints. And 
always, two or three of the nuns would come, drop in and 
help, and that got to be a great growing tradition. Then 
the students sometimes began to ask if they could come; some 
of the adult students came. I had one man, Hobart Burnett, 
who came every year; he was really the great solid one who 
was always there, first thing in the morning, to take down 
the prints that had dried. And then we got this little 
space across the street where the students had their seri- 
graphy class, and in the summer, I just took the whole room 



40 



over. And I would have up to maybe eight or ten people 
working, helping me. A marvelous woman, who came out from 
New York, Eleanor Carpenter, who was a grandmother, had 
lived on a farm and was working toward her degree and after 
that taught for about ten years in New York — she would stay 
after summer school for those two or three weeks and clean 
my screens and mix paint. So it was that group of people, 
really, who made the quantity possible, because I never 
would have done all that work all by myself. 
GALM: How did you handle the first products of your work? 
Did you try to find a gallery? 

CORITA: No. Sister Magdalen Mary, especially in the 
beginning, was much more what you might call a manager. 
One of the adults offered her services, and she would mat 
things, my things and the students' things, to send to 
exhibits. And then we got requests for shows or sent out 
feelers for shows. And a lot of that sending out and making 
contact was done by Sister Magdalen Mary. I don't think I 
was terribly excited about doing it. I was really much more 
at that time concerned with the teaching, and this was very 
much a side thing always. 

And then, I think in the last year I was at the college, 
I had done a design--! was meanwhile doing a lot of free- 
lance work on the side, designs for covers for people, 
magazines and inside illustrations, one thing and another. 



41 



invitations — and I did a design for the annual report of 

a hospital up north. And they had it printed by silk-screen. 

It was such a beautiful job that I asked them who did it, 

and I got in touch with this Harry Hambly in Santa Clara. 

That year, I prepared the separations and sent half of my 

prints up to him to see how that would work out. And then 

from then on, he's done all my printing. It's just been a 

marvelous relationship, because we've always been far away-- 

now I'm even farther, in Boston--and he has always been just 

directly attuned to what I mean when I say something. So I 

can send him--I usually do my work about three inches square, 

sometimes--and say, "Enlarge this to such and such a size, 

and do this in this color, and this is this color." And he 

always either understands or knows enough to ask questions. 

So that actually now it's come down to my doing the design 

for them--he does the printing. I have a batch coming at 

the end of the month, and I'll have a show. 

GALM: Where will the show be, here or in Boston? 

CORITA: At the gallery. 

GALM: At the gallery. At that point, did you already 

know that you might be leaving your working situation? 

CORITA: No, no. 

GALM: So it was just a blessing in disguise. 

CORITA: Right, yes, yes. It came as a kind of inspiration, 

you know, that somebody could do this, could help, you know. 



42 



because among all my helpers, I think I only had one, one 

man, who came who could really pull a squeegee across the 

screen and do a perfect print every time. And I was the 

other one. But no matter what size or shape these people 

were, they just didn't have the elbow grease that I had or 

the strength in their arms to really--so they could never 

do the printing part. They did the cleaning up and the 

hanging and all that. There's a lot of muscle work to the 

whole process. 

GALM: Early on, you decided that this was going to be your 

medium. 

CORITA: I don't think I decided. I think I just made 

prints, and the next year, I decided to make prints again. 

GALM: So it just happened to happen year after year. 

CORITA: Yes, uh-huh. And it got to be sort of expected, 

in a way, that I would make a new batch. The galleries would 

expect a new batch. 

GALM: When did you find time to collect the quotations and 

slogans and so forth that became a part of them? 

CORITA: Well, of course, in those days, I was surrounded 

by very literate people. That community had some of the 

best women you could ever meet, and these were all people 

in different fields. So sometimes people would point things 

out to me or send things to me. And I was--and I still am-- 

a great flipper, you know, rather than a reader: flip 



43 



through a book and come across good things. And then 
sometimes you just found--like I think IBM put out a little 
magazine that I got for a time that would have a page of 
quotations, and sometimes you'd find one good one there. 
So I think that people who think that I'm an avid reader — 
I don't read quite as much as it would seem. I've seen 
the quotation someplace. 

GALM: So you haven't read all of Rilke. 
CORITA: Right, right. Almost. Almost. But that was 
after I used him, for the most part. 

GALM: So the first ones did contain some figures. How 
long did that keep up? 

CORITA: Well, I think I was very much--not disillusioned, 
but I was not very pleased with what was happening in 
figurative art. I think figurative art had a hard time and 
still is having a hard time, except for a few people like 
Milton Avery and maybe Ben Shahn, people like that. So I 
think I went back to medieval things--and of course that 
[print] is very medieval--and worked from those sources 
because, in fact, I did my thesis on some medieval sculpture, 
It's a very miserable piece of scholarship, but the sculp- 
ture was good. But then, as I started getting into my own, 
as I say, being very much influenced by abstract expression- 
ism, I found it much more my thing to be nonf igurative . And 
now I feel that in a sense the prints have kind of a mixed 



44 



audience. I think a lot of people like them for what they 
say, and I always thought this was a nice thing because the 
people would then be attracted to the form and gradually 
get used to looking, whereas they might not if it were a 
picture without words. I've done lots of pictures without 
words. But I think it's helpful when they have words. 
GALM: You also stretch their imagination as far as the 
words themselves are concerned, as far as seeing them and 
not seeing all of the word. 
CORITA: I think so, yes. Right. 
GALM: And reverse image and . . . 
CORITA: Right. 

GALM: . . . other things. And that wasn't present much in 
the early work, was it? 

CORITA: No, no. I remember once that I was taking photo- 
graphs of some of the .... For one of these Mary's days, 
we decided to cover every door of the administration building 
with one big poster that was the size of a door. So every 
student made about five. I was taking photographs of them 
one time and taking sections of some because they were 
very beautiful. One of them was curved, as I was taking the 
slide, and I thought, "Oh, that would be a nifty idea." So 
that year, I think almost in all of my prints, I took 
pictures from magazines and combined them the way I wanted, 
and then I would curl the paper to go the way I wanted it to 



45 



and shoot the photograph, the slide, and then enlarge that 
and cut the stencil from that. So that's where all the 
curly ones came from. 

GALM: Did what was happening in "liturgical art" (quote- 
unquote) at the time have any influence on you? 
CORITA: Yes, I think that in the early days, especially, 
I was trying to make "religious art" (quote-unquote) that 
would be not quite as repulsive as what was around. And 
then pretty soon I realized that anything that was any good 
had a religious quality, so that it didn't matter whether 
it had that kind of subject. 

GALM: Was there anyone doing religious art at that time 
who you could respect? 

CORITA: I think at that time mostly what was being done 
was a kind of resurrection of the Byzantine and the Gothic, 
the strong things, and strong periods from the past. But 
I always laughed because I think my--well, I know my biggest 
rejection was from a liturgical art magazine we had. I 
can't think of the man's name, who is now dead. Maurice 
Lavanoux. I had agreed to make a serigraph that fit in 
the magazine as a double-page spread so that each person who 
subscribed to the magazine would get an original serigraph. 
And I did 2,100 prints. This was when I was printing by 
myself. [laughter] I did it in two colors, I think. So 
that was the longest job I ever did. And we sent them off 
to him and didn't hear from him. So after a long time, I 



46 



wrote and said, "Did they get there?" And he wrote back, 
and he said he thought that it was a little too much ahead 
for his readers. So I said, "Send them back." So for 
years afterwards we were selling them, and finally, unbeliev- 
ably, they became rare. 

GALM: Do you recall what the design was? 

CORITA: Yes. It was a figure of Christ and a figure of Our 
Lady, with words. [ Christ and Mary ] 

GALM: What do you think really put him off about it? 
CORITA: Well, I think that he probably had to play a safe 
line to keep subscribers, and even though they did sort of 
out of the way things for that time, I guess he must .... 
I didn't think it was; I mean, it seemed very tame to me. 
But apparently he didn't feel that his readers would think so. 
We did this as a gift for him, which was amazing. [laughter] 
GALM: When you did start receiving some recognition, were 
you ever courted by the same people, as far as commissions 
or anything like that is concerned? 

CORITA: Well, yes, I think eventually. I suppose the top 
thing in that regard would be the mural I did for the 
Vatican Pavilion [at the 1964 New York World's Fair]. But 
of course the person in charge of that section of the Vatican 
Pavilion was Norman Laliberte, who happened to be a friend 
and thought what we were doing was great. So it wasn't 
exactly that the officials in the church chose, or anybody 



47 



official. That kind of recognition just didn't ever come. 
GALM: Is any of your work in churches or convents, other 

than . . . ? 

CORITA: Oh, some in convents. And let's see — I did one 
chapel, which we did the complete design of, in Palm Springs, 
which has since been sort of taken apart by different people 
who came along and thought otherwise. [laughter] 
GALM: It's been dismantled? 

CORITA: It's been dismantled. And I think I did a series 
of the stations of the cross for one chapel, which were 
then taken down the next year, sold to another chapel, 
which .... [laughter] Those were hard years because I 
think even the general public was still very much adverse 
to the notion of what they called modern art, you know, any- 
thing that was different from the bad copies of the great 
masters or the great masters themselves. So we were just 
part of the crowd. 

GALM: It seems, though, that there would be more of an 
acceptance in the late sixties and .... 
CORITA: Well, of course, within the community, it was 
always mixed. And I always laugh because in my own family, 
it was divided exactly in half, you know. [laughter] Let's 
see, well, it couldn't be divided exactly in half. I had 
my sister [Mary], whose home we are in, and my brother [Mark] 
who was a priest, and they were always very much in sympathy 



48 



with what I was doing. But the rest of the family thought 
I was out of my mind. [laughter] But they've mellowed 
over the years. 

GALM: What is it that — it was just too far out for them? 
CORITA: Yes. Well, two of my brothers have died during 
this last year, and those two brothers and then my sister, 
who is a religious--Sister Ruth--were very conservative 
people. In fact, you might say that one brother [Richard] 
and sister were extremely conservative, in many, many ways. 
And then the other half of the family, my sister and myself 
and my brother who was a priest (who is no longer a priest) 
were much more sort of into what was changing. And my 
mother — I used to bring her the batch of prints every year 
when I finished them, to show her, and I remember the last 
time I brought them to her. I think she always half-loved 
them because her daughter had done them, so she was much 
kindlier toward them than the conservative part of the 
family. But she looked at them, and she said, "Don't you 
think you've gone a little too far this time?" [laughter] 
It's just marvelous. And then I said, "Well, which are your 
favorites?" And so she chose two. And one was kind of a 
logical choice: it was a beautiful heart with a crown of 
thorns, and then the [Juan] Jimenez "Heart of the City" 
wr'itten over it. [The Heart of the City print is actually 
based on a poem by Miguel de Unamuno; Jimenez's poems 



49 



appear in other prints, however, such as Yellow Spring . --Ed. ] 
But the other was what I called Wonderbread , for which I 
really got the idea from the Wonderbread loaf of bread. 
There were just twelve circular images, different colors. 
And that was one of her favorites, which I thought was 
quite far out, as they say, for her, who thought I had 
gone a little far that year. 

GALM: How much did your students influence your work? 
CORITA: I think there was a great exchange between us. 
First of all, we saw the same things, because we usually 
went to exhibits together. And then I think there was a 
great interchange as far as the classwork was concerned, 
as to assignments I would give them and ways they would 
interpret those assignments. I think we probably, from 
working so close together, had a very similar way of looking 
at things and probably similar tastes. I'm sure they were-- 
well, I think it was really a mutual kind of influence, 
that oftentimes I would be stimulated by something, as in 
the case of that banner, which was quite accidental: I 
had been looking at a student's work while I got that idea, 
but it was really the photography that led me into it. 
GALM: Had you been doing photography all along, too? 
CORITA: Yes. I used to take thousands of slides, and most 
of our lectures--I guess all of our lectures--we illustrated 
them with slides. And then I used to take slides for Paul 



50 



Laporte, for his classes. 

GALM: What were some of the assignments that you gave 
your students? 

CORITA: Well, I always had, or developed later, I guess, 
this quantity business, with the notion that if they had 
to do a lot of things, they would just dig in, figuring that 
it was just hopeless, so they might as well just get them 
done. Whereas I think sometimes if you're faced by having 
to do a single thing, you have great expectations of your- 
self that it's got to be great, and you worry over it. The 
other way, you sort of get a lot of experience without — 
and you get quality through the experience, through doing 
it over and over again. For example, I would have them 
take a piece of cardboard with a hole in the center, a 
square in the center for a finder, and just go over pages 
of magazines, and when they found something they liked, a 
section of a picture, draw a line around it and cut it out. 
Well, I would have them do 500 of those at a time, and some 
of them got to be very smart. They would just take a 
magazine and the paper cutter and cut, and then go back and 
sift through and take out the ones they liked. [laughter] 
So it developed this marvelous kind of inventiveness to get 
the thing done. They would think of unbelievable ways of-- 
and I always said, if you can get somebody to do it for you 
or with you or to help you, fine. And in that way it 



51 



involved other students. 
GALM: So it was still problem solving. 

CORITA: Yes, right. Exactly. Which is what I think it 
ought — it's what it all was. And I think I always tried to 
do things that would — see, I think there's a creative 
aspect to art, and an analytical .... [telephone rings] 
GALM: Do you want to take that, or ... ? 
CORITA: No, is that going to bother your . . . ? The 
creative is when you're putting things together, and the 
analytical part is when you're taking things apart and 
criticizing and observing — whereas the other part, you're 
in it. This was in the days before mass meditation groups, 
but I think that I was always aware of that difference in 
consciousness, of when you were criticizing something and 
when you were making something, and that you couldn't do the 
two things at the same time, and that often people tried 
to--especially , you know, nonprofessionals. So especially 
in the night classes, where we had a lot of people who had 
never taken art, just had always wanted to, and real folk 
artists, and some of them marvelous — so I would try to do 
things. I would try to give them a list of things to do, 
and their mind would get so busy trying to fulfill those 
that the thing they actually did would be done freely 
because they wouldn't be so worried about the final result. 
They thought all these other things were important. Like 



52 



to use maybe three colors and have it a particular size and 

a lot of little requirements that they could legitimately 

busy that part of themselves with [phone rings] while their 

creativity part could come out more easily. 

GALM: Where were you getting those ideas for teaching, 

or were they your own? 

CORITA: Well, I think that "necessity is the mother of 

invention" sort of thing, that I would just — I think I 

always had a horror of boring classes from having had so 

many boring classes myself. And so I would try to do things 

that would be stimulating and exciting, and so I would . . . 

When it stops I'll take it [the phone] off. So I spent a 

lot of time in preparation for classes, [gathering] materials 

that were not necessarily art magazines or art books, but 

just .... I think I'm naturally intuitive, and ideas 

just come. 

GALM: Were you able to use some of the same ideas you 

used for your elementary school teaching that you did later 

on? 

CORITA: Toward the end. But I think by the time I got into 

really knowing how to teach, I was teaching older people, 

college students, and adults. I often regretted the way I 

had taught, though I think I was a fun teacher in a way 

with the young kids because I enjoyed them so much. But I 

would have--I think I would have been much more challenging 



53 



to them if I had known then what I knew later. And that's 
why I think I liked that class that was a requisite for 
people who were going to teach, because it was a chance to 
kind of undo what I had done. [laughter] 
GALM: Make up for .... 

CORITA: Yes. And could see the possibilities of what they 
could do. 

GALM: What form did that class take, as far as handling 
the students? 

CORITA: Well, I would give them many of the same problems I 
would give to the art students, and we would go on field trips, 
and I would try to make it as much as possible a problem class. 
I thought they really should be learning something about art, 
as far as tastes and recognition and so forth, because it 
seemed to me that as much as I could give them, they would 
have to have that kind of appreciation to be able to intelli- 
gently get their students to do things. And I must say that 
we had marvelous equipment, like films. We had, in those days, 
all the Eames films; and those are, if you've seen them, I'm 
sure .... In fact, one of the assignments I gave them was 
when Charles first gave us the India film on the exhibit that 
Alexander Girard did at the Museum of Modern Art. [ Textiles 
and Ornamental Arts of India] I showed them the film, and then 
afterwards I said, "Now, go home and come back tomorrow 
with 200 questions about the film." [laughter] And it was 



54 



marvelous because any of these things are .... I would 
have them look at things for--like, we would sit around in 
a circle and each have a Coke bottle and look at it for 
say an hour, or maybe ten minutes sometimes, depending. 
And we did a lot of looking exercises. And you find that 
these things are very difficult to do. The first ten or 
twenty questions are painful. But after that you get very 
slaphappy, and you start opening up and expanding. A lot 
of the questions were worthless, but out of that whole 
batch, you would get some marvelous things; and, again, the 
whole process, I think, was a good stretching exercise. 
And some of them--I mean, some of them came back with 50 
questions, and maybe two people out of the class did 200. 
But even that was fun. 

GALM: They're the ones that couldn't stay awake for the 
class. [laughter] 
CORITA: Right, right. 

GALM: What did you do about grading them, the students? 
CORITA: Well, in the last few years, that was the last 
assignment, to grade themselves and to justify the grade. 
And they were really pretty good. I very seldom had to 
change them. Ordinarily if they were too low, they would be 
wrong, or seem not right to me. And I used to tell them that 
I thought the important things were to be in class every 
day--not because I thought I was so great that they needed 



55 



to hear me, but I think the things that happened when we 
were all together, the discussions and what have you, were 
the way they really grev\?, and that they couldn't learn, 
they couldn't catch up if they weren't there. I'd be 
furious if they weren't there on the day that I gave an 
assignment, or on the first day of class, which was really 
a big bang-up sort of orientation. I said, "If you've 
missed the first class, you don't know what's happening in 
the rest of the class, because that's the only day I 
really teach." 

GALM: Was the adult class already going when you . . . ? 
CORITA: Um-hmm, um-hmm, yes. But in those days, there 
would be about six people in the class. And in the adult 
classes. And then there got to be about fifty or sixty in 
the class. 

GALM: And there was just a one-session class. 
CORITA: Yes, once a week, um-hmm. And at night. And 
Saturday mornings we had adult classes, too. Those were 
mostly teachers, people working for their degrees. 

But I remember once we did a--what is it?--the NAEA. 
The National Art Education Association had its meeting in 
Los Angeles, and we were asked if we would like to do the 
commercial exhibits. All the people who had commercial 
products that they wanted to sell to schools set up their 
exhibits. And you've probably been to some of those exhibits 



56 



--tables with green felt and all that — they're really 
ghastly. So we took it on, and I think it was at the 
Statler [Hotel] downtown when it was in its first year. 
And we took over some huge room, and I assigned each student 
in my classes to ... . 



57 



TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE ONE 
APRIL 6, 1976 and APRIL 13, 1976 

GALM: You were talking about an exhibit that your students 
did at the Statler for the National Education .... 
CORITA: National Art Education Association. Each student 
was responsible for getting in touch with the manufacturer 
or distributor--the salesman, I guess--of a particular 
company — like, say, the American Crayon Company — getting 
materials from them and getting enough things made out of 
those materials that we could cover .... We got these 
metal sections that you make bookcases out of, and every- 
body used those. We got a whole batch of them, and they 
had to all paint them white. That was the only kind of 
regulation thing. And they could set them up in any way 
they wanted. Their job was to sell the product that they 
were in charge of. We had two companies who came in and 
changed their exhibit back to the old thing, but that was 
out of about, oh, eighty some companies that we were working 
for. And that was a fantastic experience that we probably 
never would have gotten into if we had realized how much 
work it was going to be. 

GALM: I'm sure that must have happened more than once, 
[laughter] 
CORITA: Yes, exactly. One of the things Charles said that 



58 



always stuck with me, he said that they always tried to 

maintain their amateur status, because an amateur was a 

person who was always willing to do something because he 

didn't know it couldn't be done. [laughter] And he would 

do it. 

GALM: Does this then predate the — I know you did an 

exhibition .... 

CORITA: This was in 1957. 

GALM: I know you did an exhibition of banners at the . . . 

CORITA: . . . National Gallery [in Washington, D.C.]. 

GALM: Was it at the National Gallery? 

CORITA: Um-hmm, yes. We had done the banners. In fact, 

we had done the banners before the celebration days 

began, because I think I had gotten the idea from looking at 

a picture. I thought it would be a super project. And 

everybody thought they were outrageous. So we decided that 

we would go down to Watts, to the [Watts] Towers--you' re 

familiar with them. And in those days, nobody knew where 

they were, even in Watts. We'd ask somebody on the next 

corner, and they wouldn't know. We had a kind of little 

procession around in and out of the towers, mostly to take 

pictures, just to see how they looked, objectively. And 

they were reproduced in Arts and Architecture , some of 

the photographs. And Fritz Gutheim, who was, and I think 

still is, professionally doing exhibits for big occasions. 



59 



was in charge of the AIA [American Institute of Architects] 

centennial, which was to be in the National Gallery and 

was to consist of photographs. And he thought the exhibit 

would be pretty dull and that the banners hung with them 

would make it more lively. So that was one of the early-on 

things that got the people in the community impressed. We 

always thought it was great fun if we could impress the 

people in the community, because they took us as a little 

offbeat, as I say. We had our supporters, but most of the 

people thought we were a little bit odd. 

GALM: When you say, "the community," do you mean . . . ? 

CORITA: The sisters, the nuns. 

GALM: The religious community. 

CORITA: Yes. And this surprised us no end, because they 

were so impressed. Everybody was so impressed that we had 

something in the National Gallery. It's just marvelous 

how people make their judgments. 

GALM: But was that the only time you hung banners, did a 

banner exhibit? 

CORITA: Oh, no. We had a marvelous banner exhibit at the 

County Museum. 

GALM: At Exhibition Park. 

CORITA: Yes. 

GALM: Now, were those banners left over then from Mary's 

Day, or were those different banners? 



60 



CORITA: Well, for a number of years, at least one class a 
year I would have make banners. We were always rather 
brutal in those days because we said that anything the 
students did really belonged to the college if the college 
wanted it. We collected all the banners, so we had a 
great accumulation because the people were doing them for 
several years, so that on the big days, we would have enough 
for most of the people to carry. But that exhibition was 
great fun. [Jim] Elliott was the one who got us to do it, 
asked for it. It was in the rotunda. And I had this idea 
--we had made small banners, silk-screen rectangles about, 
oh, maybe, sixteen inches square, and I had the idea of 
their hanging horizontally in space, way above--you know 
how high that room is. And then I think the other banners 
were hung from the four corners, where there must have been 
something to attach them to. So we got four poles established 
on the floor, and strung these banners, probably about, oh, 
maybe sixty or seventy of these sixteen-inch squares. From 
the corner of each one to the four poles went a string. So 
there was this whole maze of banners that were beautifully 
spaced. And then the problem was to get the whole thing up 
into the air, which we did by taking one pole up and fasten- 
ing it to a light, a chandelier, while everybody else held 
the other parts as they went up. It was beautiful. But 
again it was kind of an impossible thing. And that was 



61 



happening during summer school: summer school meant 

something like a three-hour class in the morning and a 

three-hour class in the afternoon, and after the last class, 

we would get a gang and go down there and work on it. So 

we were crazy in a way, like I guess all enthusiastic 

people are. 

GALM: Here again, your making of banners — do you think that 

had an influence on a popularity for banners among other 

groups? 

CORITA: I think it could have. These days got to be very 

well known, and toward the end, there were probably about 

half students and half outsiders, because people just heard 

about them, and they wanted to bring their kids to them; 

they just wanted to come and be a part of it. 

GALM: Because I know banners always had been, of course, 

a part of religious celebration or any celebration. 

CORITA: Any celebration, right. 

GALM: But there was a period there in the sixties in which 

they became more of a liturgical expression, too. 

CORITA: Well, yes. I think the banners really did have a 

great — well, I would say they had a wide influence, not a 

great influence. I picked up a little Hallmark [Cards, Inc.] 

book the other day--in fact, somebody sent it to me because 

they were laughing over it--and as you turn page after page, 

it looked like stuff that had been thrown away in the art 



62 



department. It was a very bad copy of almost everything 

we had ever thought of doing. And I think with the banners, 

the same thing has happened. People have started making 

banners, but they're dead. They have a kind of nonenthusiasm 

to them. 

GALM: Why don't we stop for today and then we'll resume? 

CORITA: Okay, fine. 

APRIL 13, 1976 

GALM: Before we continue with the interview, I would like 
to clarify something. We talked last time about two banner 
shows, one at the National Gallery and one at our Los 
Angeles County Museum of Art (and at that time, I think it 
was in Exposition Park) . Was this one and the same show? 
CORITA: There may have been banners that were repeated in 
both shows, because as I think I said, we collected them 
from the students, and they thought of--I think they were 
forewarned that they were doing this for the cause, so to 
speak, and that other people could use them. So that 
some of them may--no, I take it back, because it's coming 
to me now that we did those banners especially for that 
Washington show. I gave the students the theme of "House 
or Home," and they were to do some research. I think at 
that point we did mostly biblical research and just found 
great quotations about the home or the house or the building. 



63 



anything to do with that area that we'd hopefully somehow 

tie in with the American Institute of Architects show, which 

they were helping. And then probably some of those banners, 

or all of them, were used in the Los Angeles County Museum 

show. 

GALM: Was the curator at the museum actually just bringing 

that show from the National Gallery? 

CORITA: No, this was a banner show we did for the County 

Museum, and had no relation to the architects' show. 

GALM: Because it occurred in the same year. [1958] 

CORITA: Well, it could have been. See, my memory is not 

terribly efficient. It could have been; it was certainly 

differently arranged because we had the arrangement of it 

here in Los Angeles. I remember in the National Gallery 

they were hung in a very static manner, and I was very 

shocked when I saw them because they were almost hung as 

other pictures, and banners are meant to hang freely. 

GALM: In other words, you produced the banners for the 

Washington show. You didn't install them. 

CORITA: That's right, that's right. 

GALM: You installed them very definitely at the County 

Museum. 

CORITA: Yes, yes. And we had the great help of Jim Elliott, 

who was one of the curators there. 

GALM: So that was in '58, I believe. What other student 



64 



exhibits--was the next large one, then, for the IBM 
people? 

CORITA: We sent out a lot of student shows for the art 
department, which included paintings, ceramics, some ceramic 
sculpture, prints, and so forth. And then I think I mentioned 
the NAEA exhibit we did. And we did .... 
GALM: "Survival with Style" — that came later. 
CORITA: Yes. "Survival with Style" we did originally for 
the college, and that travelled. The only other time I 
saw it aside from our own use of it was when Boston 
University had a retrospective of my work, and they included 
that as part of the teaching work. The last summer I was at 
the college, in 1968, I did an exhibit with the students 
for the World Council of Churches when they met in Uppsala 
[Sweden]. And that consisted of about, oh, sixty to seventy 
structures, which were made of two pieces of cardboard 
eight feet square that intersected and stood like you'd 
stand two cards, slit one and slide the other one into it, 
so they were at right angles and supported themselves. It 
was John Taylor, who is the head of film and communication 
for the World Council, who got us to do that. And I was to 
go, but I was on my way [out] ; so I chose a very remarkable 
student we had [Donna Villicich] , and she went with the 
exhibit and talked to the people and to the press and so 
forth about it, over there. And they had made a film, which 
I have seen, in which Pete Seeger is singing and the young 



65 



people are dancing around in and out of the exhibit. And 

they opened some great castle in Uppsala that was used as 

a kind of museum but had never had an exhibit in it, and 

they filled this huge hall with the structures. And again, 

I only saw photographs of that exhibit, but they really 

did a marvelous job of setting it up. 

GALM: Pete Seeger was there in person? 

CORITA: Yes. 

GALM: Did that show then go on to Geneva, or was that 

still yet another show for the World Council? 

CORITA: I had a show at the World Council building itself. 

GALM: I see, in 1970. 

CORITA: I guess, yes. Was it in 1970? 

GALM: That's what it says. 

CORITA: Yes, yes, it was. 

GALM: Were parts of that . . . ? 

CORITA: They used their big main entry place, which is an 

exhibit space, for that, hanging some of them from the 

ceiling; and it's like a great — more than two stories, two 

extra stories high. And that was a beautiful exhibit. 

GALM: Did you go for that one or not? 

CORITA: No. My sister and brother-in-law were in Europe 

at the time, and they were there in time to see it. But 

for that, the Franciscans, the people who do the "Hour of 

St. Francis" and those commercials that you may have seen. 



66 



lent us their television studio to do those in. They weren't 
doing anything at the moment in the studio, so we had it for 
about — it must have been a month and a half. Both the day 
students, again, and the night students worked on that; so 
they just could come in and out and down there and leave 
their stuff out. So you can imagine, there were — let's see, 
I think each person had to do four complete structures. And 
it was again probably bigger than I would have done, if I 
had known ahead of time how much work it was going to be. 
Some of the students fell by the wayside, and others profited 
by it immensely. So again it was a kind of mixed blessing. 
GALM: When you say "wayside," they actually dropped out, 
or they just . . . ? 

CORITA: Right, um-hmm, or finished some and not others. 
GALM: Would you assign a general theme? 
CORITA: Well, that was in the sixties, and there was a 
great deal of social consciousness among students at that 
time anyway, so it wasn't difficult. And it seemed that 
it largely centered around poverty and justice, injustice 
and justice--however you want to put it. But again, the 
students found dozens of quotations and did them in connec- 
tion with visual things. 

GALM: You mentioned students' social consciousness. 
CORITA: Well, I probably urged them. [laughter] 
GALM: When was your social consciousness awakened? I'm 



67 



sure it was always there, but in the direction of your 
art? 

CORITA: I suppose people like Dan [Berrigan] had a lot 
to do with it because I remember he was the first one I 
ever heard of speaking about the Vietnam War. And this 
was way back in the early days. I had hardly caught up with 
him in relation to the black problem and poverty, and 
suddenly he was saying, before I had heard anybody else — 
or I'm sure before I had thought of it myself — that it was 
wrong for us to be at war. And I thought, "How can he say 
that?" [laughter] So I think that meeting people like him, 
and then people I think particularly of Mary Jean Pew, who 
was in the community and is now still teaching at the 
college, in political science. She was in charge of the 
sodality which was in charge of this Mary's Day, which the 
art department took over the visual aspect of it; so we 
worked together. And I think living with people who were 
also socially conscious helped a lot. I'm sure if I had 
been a nice proper housewife, I would not have bumped into 
all of these ideas. And of course once they get into you, 
you start noticing and expanding, too. 

GALM: Did the war seem to stimulate the consciousness 
more than, say, the civil rights movement had? 
CORITA: No, I don't think so. I think they were both very 
real issues to us. Perhaps more in the community than among 



68 



the students: I think it really originated in the commun- 
ity and then, through the teachers, filtered into the 
students. 

GALM: Were any members of the community going to the South 
in those years and marching? 

CORITA: Yes, I think somebody went to Selma, yes. 
GALM: Off the tape, I was asking when you first met Dan 
Berrigan, and you said that the first real meaningful contact 
had been during a summer at Montecito. Could you describe 
that? 

CORITA: Well, it was extremely informal. We would cele- 
brate the Eucharist every day. And Dan is so magic with 
words that they just pour out of him in glorious form. 
So those were always very special events in which he would 
tell a story or would usually have maybe a kind of sermon. 
And then we would just meet to talk a couple of times a 
day. And again it was largely informal, though I'm sure 
Dan did most of the talking, because he was so good at it. 
But in a sense he doesn't ever take over, so that what he 
says is probably not more in quantity but more in quality; 
and I remember it as being the most talking. He says so 
many things by not saying them and by understatement, which 
is, of course, the poet in him. He's going to teach a 
course this summer at the college. 
GALM: What is the course? 
CORITA: It's called tentatively "From Poetry to Politics." 



69 



GALM: [laughter] And back again to poetry. 
CORITA: Back again to poetry, yes, indeed. Because he's 
gotten very rauch--well, he did a book [ The Raft Is Not the 
Shore] with [Thich Nhat] Hanh, the head of the Buddhist 
community in Paris. He was a very good friend of Thomas 
Merton's, and he started the Thomas Merton Center in New 
York, which was a place of contemplation, really. So I think 
part of him has always moved in the direction of contemplation, 
without disturbing his activities. 

GALM: In looking through your prints, I don't see too much 
Thomas Merton. Have you used . . . ? 

CORITA: No, I don't think so. I think I read Thomas Merton — 
when everybody was reading Seven Story Mountain, I read it. 
But for me — I'm sure I would feel differently if I knew him, 
but I've heard a tape of his recently, and it really just turned 
me off. I think his ideas are marvelous, but I think the way in 
which he states the ideas are still enveloped in a kind of 
church language, which is ... . That's unfair, because it's 
probably more of a classic church language than we are used to 
hearing. But I always think of it as coming largely from work- 
ing with the adult classes, who were mostly--certainly most of 
them were not Catholics, and many of them were Jews .... 
Most of them, I think, were Jews. I think we would not have the 
arts without them. But I think in working with those people, 
I was always very conscious of trying not to talk in a way 



70 



that would sound proselytizing to them. And we had some 
rather delicate things because they often worked on these 
exhibits and projects that we were doing, group projects. 
So that the themes were really broad enough, certainly, not 
to be called Catholic themes--but I wanted that to be 
understood. Of course, these people had come to take an 
art course, not to take a political science course or a 
social awareness course. But by that time, I didn't know 
how to separate the two. So they got involved, and so on. 
I think in working to keep it being an art course and an 
idea course that I got accustomed to choose statements that 
would be understandable by everybody, rather than by just 
the Catholic community or a church-affiliated community. 
GALM: You said that you learned to separate the two. How 
did you . . . ? 

CORITA: No, I learned that I couldn't separate the two. 
GALM: Oh, that you couldn't separate the two. I see. 
Because I was curious how you could. [laughter] 
CORITA: No, I couldn't. 

GALM: In describing Dan Berrigan, you had mentioned that 
he was a pixie. Why "pixie"? 

CORITA: Well, when he speaks he has a kind of a--he is 
small and slight, and he has a kind of twinkling Irish way, 
and he never comes down on anything heavily. His brother 
[Philip] is much heavier. But Dan always says things with 
such indirection and such humor that you're taken a little 



71 



off guard. He's always asking the probing question, but 

he's asking it in a kind of surprising way, rather than 

coming down on you hard. He has the light touch. 

GALM: Did you ever feel the need to be out in the front 

lines with him? 

CORITA: No, in fact I think I really had no guts at all, 

until it finally occurred to me that I really had my own 

place. But certainly Dan never felt this. He felt that 

what I was doing was — and Phil also, which surprised me, 

felt that I was doing great things for whatever movement 

was going on, in my own way. So then I figured I was more 

comfortable with that and could do that. I couldn't march 

and be in the public that way. I had to bring it into the 

work and into the students' work, make it available that 

way. And I thought--again, the idea that using words with 

visual forms and using just short passages is often a way 

to help awaken people to something they may not be aware of, 

rather than enclosing it in a book or making a speech about 

it. 

GALM: Let's shift back over to the IBM exhibit [1963]. 

How did you get that invitation, or did it just come in the 

mail? 

CORITA: No, it came by phone call. [laughter] I often 

remember, because that exhibit got to be pretty hard. It 

was at the time when the students were just beginning to be 



72 



restive about being given assignments; they wanted to go off 
and do things on their own. And that increased after that 
until — I think that's where we had so much difficulty with 
the exhibit for Uppsala, because that was again a group 
project, and some of the students were just finding their 
own individuality and didn't want to be involved in a great 
big group project that was really under my name. This 
really disturbed some of them, and it disturbed me, too. 
But there wasn't anything I could do about it because that 
was where the publicity was; so we just had to take that. 
But the IBM exhibit was a good experience for me, because 
I--I think I was always very good at getting other people 
to work. I worked very hard myself, but I was also very 
good in sharing responsibility, even though I had to have 
the final responsibility, because I was the one who had 
accepted to do the thing. So for the IBM exhibit, I chose 
two seniors (Michaela Myers and Paula McGowan) to be in 
charge, one in charge of one half, and the other in charge 
of the other half. They were really in charge of seeing 
that the students were doing what they were supposed to do; 
and they kept track of the supplies, which is a monumental 
task with that kind of exhibit. They took all that off my 
hands. It was very good experience for them. And then IBM 
flew them to New York to put the exhibit up. And then I 
think I was in Washington--we were on one of our tours, and 



73 



I guess I'd gone to Georgetown to speak, so I was in 
Georgetown--and I got a phone call during my own exhibit 
from one of the student leaders who was setting up the 
exhibit, saying they were having a terrible time. I 
don't know if you've heard the history of this, of the 
exhibit. 

CALM: I've heard a little bit about it, the reaction to it. 
CORITA: It was at Christmastime, and we did it with boxes. 
We had one whole section, which was probably the size of 
that wall, composed of boxes, which when they all fit 
together said, "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men." And 
when that got up, people started coming in off the streets. 
It was a very — what shall I say? — explosive time. Anyway, 
I guess people looking at IBM didn't know what to make of 
this, and they thought it was kind of a hippie thing. So 
they came in and questioned the IBM people, and so they got 
them to — what did they ask them to do? Oh, to put the 
scriptural source underneath it. [laughter] 
GALM: Give it validity. 

CORITA: Made it okay, you see. Put a different tone on it. 
And then there was something else very humorous. I can't 
remember [it exactly] , but it was a statement from Pope 
John which a number of people came in and reacted to very 
violently, and we had to take that out. So the students 
were there making these decisions, you see, because I was in 



74 



transit. So they called to tell me what they had done. 

So there wasn't much we could do about that. I said, "Just 

do whatever you think is best on the spot." But it really 

created a great — I suppose not a very great percentage of 

New Yorkers complained, but enough to make a little trouble 

there. 

GALM: Why did IBM choose Immaculate Heart to do it? 

CORITA: I wish I could think of the man who was in charge 

of their design department who had known of our work and 

just knew we would put on a good show. [Robert Monahan] 

GALM: And just didn't see that a peace theme could be a 

radical . . . 

CORITA: . . . could be dangerous. No, in fact, he came out 

during the preparation of the exhibit and looked at most 

of the material that we had and just thought it was marvelous. 

I guess they had never done anything quite like this and 

didn't know what the man in the street was going to make 

of it. 

GALM: Was there much student activity at Immaculate Heart 

during the disruptive campus years? 

CORITA: Well, it was very mild, whatever there was, compared 

with what was going on at Berkeley, for example. Nothing 

like that. It was at that time almost totally a girls' 

school. There were some boys in the music department. I 

think the students were involved, but they were .... 



75 



Well, at that time--I can't speak of now, but at that time — 

none of them were involved in drugs or in that end of the 

scene, and they were probably involved in school and their 

own social life. 

GALM: Did the art department ever become a hub of political 

activity? 

CORITA: No. Other than those things like the IBM exhibit. 

That's as far as we went. And the Mary's Day things, 

which were political in a sense, as far as issues were 

concerned. But certainly not about candidates. 

GALM: Why don't we shift over to a major commission that 

you had, and that was the Vatican Pavilion wall. You 

mentioned last time that the invitation to do it did not 

come from church authorities. 

CORITA: Didn't come from Rome. [laughter] 

GALM: Who did it come from? 

CORITA: Norman Laliberte was in charge of a large area on 

the first floor. It was a two-floor exhibit. Did you see 

it? 

GALM: No. 

CORITA: So he was really the one who wrote to me and asked 

if I would do it. So I did three and chose the one I liked 

best and sent it. 

GALM: You did three, what? in scale or in full? 

CORITA: No, I did three full ones because I had never done 



76 



anything that big. Well, I had done, I think, a billboard, 
small, and then it was blown up. I've forgotten what it 
was for, even. But I just felt I wanted to do more than 
one. In fact, I usually do more than one of a thing when 
I'm doing a job because I work very much from a kind of 
intuitive level; I have to be very free when I'm working, 
and sometimes you're not free when you start. And then you 
get relaxed into an idea, and there is a greater communica- 
tion, I think, between what starts at the gut level and what 
comes out of your hand. At that time, I had a good friend 
who was principal over at the [Mother of] Good Counsel 
School [Carol Carrig] , which was close to the college, and 
she lent me their school basement, which was stored with 
all kinds of furniture, including two large tables. So 
we moved all the furniture to one side of the room — this 
was forty feet long — and I would spread out the area I 
was working on, on two big tables, probably about once and 
a half again the size of this room. And then the other 
part--as I finished it, I'd drape it over the furniture 
and then pull it down as I needed it. [laughter] 
CALM: Were you given the theme — the Beatitudes--or was 
that . . . ? 

CORITA: I think I was, yes. 

GALM: I came across something, and it sounded like it was 
the description for the commission, that it had tCi be 



77 



4 X 40 feet, or was that just . . . ? 

CORITA: That's right, no, that's right. That was the 
space that they had for it. 
GALM: And were you given $2,500 to do it? 
CORITA: Yes. 

GALM: It had to be to New York by March 1? 
CORITA: Right. 

GALM: You got $700 for two sisters to fly out to check 
it out? 

CORITA: Right. 

GALM: You mentioned that you did three. Would you recall 
which one you actually took? 

CORITA: Yes. I'm trying to remember whether it was first, 
second, or third, in order. Is that what you're asking? 
GALM: I'm trying to test your feeling of opening up after 
you've worked with--whether it actually was one of the 
later ones. 

CORITA: I'm not really sure. It was either the second or 
the third. I did one that was very, very much like my 
prints, very free shapes, and just the words of the Beati- 
tudes themselves. I had made my own set of Beatitudes by 
taking phrases from different translations of Scripture that 
I liked. None of them quite seemed all good, but some of 
them were good in parts. I put my own together, so to 
speak. The first one had just the words, and then--don't 



78 



remember the order of the other two, but for one I chose 
words from John F. Kennedy and Pope John, who were, of 
course, the great heroes of the time; and then the other 
one was much smaller in scale. In fact, I really liked it 
better than the one I sent, but it was to be up above eye 
level, probably from about eight feet down four feet. And 
the one that consisted of quotations from many, many people 
was much smaller in scale. The words were too small, I 
felt, to be read at that level, though I liked it better 
than the one I sent. And later, that one, the first one, 
got sold at an art sale when I was away. And the one with 
the smaller words was purchased by the United Church 
people; they circulated it for a number of years, and I 
don't know where it finally ended up. And--or did they 
buy the . . . ? Yes, I take it back. They purchased the 
one from the Vatican Pavilion and circulated it among their 
groups. And the one with the small printing, I exhibited in 
a couple of places; and then it was finally purchased by 
Fullerton Junior College, and it's in their cafeteria now. 
And that's kind of a nice offshoot. It's right down above 
the table which holds the food, so it's great. The students 
can read at eye level as they go by. 

GALM: What was the reaction to it? I've heard of the 
positive reaction. Was there much negative reaction to it? 
CORITA: I don't remember any negative reaction connected 



79 



with that. Actually, Laliberte's work was very much, at 
that time, in tune with it. So that whole area was really 
very nicely designed as a kind of unit. The mural you 
passed by just before you got into the Pieta area. And if 
there were bad things, I don't remember ever hearing them. 
I got a lot of good response from it, but I don't remember 
ever hearing anything negative. Probably was said, I'm 
sure, among all those people. 

GALM: Then you did get some other major commissions. The 
Westinghouse — that came a little bit later, 1966. 
CORITA: You're so good with my dates. 
GALM: I've looked them up. 

CORITA: The Westinghouse series, I guess you'd call them. 
David Lewis, who is in charge of advertising — or sales 
promotion, some such thing — came out to see me in the art 
department when I was still teaching and talked about this 
series. At that time, neither of us knew how long it was 
going to go on. So I said, yes, I would be interested. 
So I did it, and it's still going on. About three or four 
years ago, they made a portfolio. When they put the ad in 
the magazine each time, they also have a silk-screen print 
made from it in an edition of about 200 or 300, and these 
are sent as gifts to the people on the president's mailing 
list — that is, [Donald H.] McGannon. Not the president of 
the United States, [laughter] the president of Group W. And 



80 



they also have reprints which they send to people who write 
in for them, which are printed on better paper. They made 
a portfolio of the past designs--! think they're the first 
sixteen, beautifully presented--and then this also was 
mailed to that same mailing list [ The Corita Collection : 
An Expression of Broadcasting Philosophy ] . 
GALM: It's unfortunate that's such a limited edition. 
CORITA: Yes, right. Except the original thing in the 
magazine is not very limited, and usually it's in about 
three or four magazines. Not always the same ones: some- 
times in a trade magazine, and then sometimes in Fortune , 
sometimes in Time and Newsweek , or ... . 

GALM: Did that please your goals, the fact that it would 
receive such wide circulation? 

CORITA: Very much. Because I think this is what really 
kept me in prints after I got started, though I have done 
some paintings. I really like the idea of lots of people 
being able to have them and my being able to keep one 
myself. So, yes, I've always had the feeling that I want 
the stuff to get out. Like I would love to do billboards. 
GALM: You've done one, haven't you? 

CORITA: Yes, I've done one, and I've done another one 
that will go up this summer, I think, for the college. 
GALM: For Immaculate Heart? 

CORITA: For Immaculate Heart. But I just love the idea of 
the work being really public. I think I feel a bit private 



81 



now about myself, but I like the work to be public. 

GALM: Was the Container Corporation [of America ] --was that 

a similar project? 

CORITA: That was just a single invitation. 

GALM: In other words, that wasn't a series. 

CORITA: No, no. It was a series, but I was just one of 

the people in the series. 

GALM: Oh, I see. 

CORITA: In fact, I think they sort of really had a great 

deal of influence on magazine ads. At least some companies 

since have done that sort of thing, giving an artist a whole 

page and just a byline for the company. And of course the 

Westinghouse people went one step further and gave me the 

whole page without a byline. They have a separate page with 

their information on it. 

GALM: Did you have any input as to the selection of the 

men, the words of wisdom? 

CORITA: No, David usually chooses those. I always have 

the freedom to refuse to do it if I don't like it, and 

they'll find another one. But they've always just been 

things that were very much to my liking. 

GALM: Never refused a one. 

CORITA: Never refused a one, yes. That's been a lovely 

kind of relationship because there has never been any kind 

of written contract or any confusion or complexity or 



82 



trouble. It just has been a very simple arrangement. 
GALM: I heard through a second or a third or a fourth 
party that you also did a happening for the Westinghouse 
people back in Philadelphia. Would you describe that? 
CORITA: Yes. It was in a program with an architect and 
a city planner, so there were three of us on the program. 
No, I'm getting it mixed up with Winterfest, which I did 
for Boston. Well, I did several of these, and they mainly 
consisted of an introductory talk, in which I would discuss 
a bit of the feeling and reason behind celebration, what 
visual things did for us, and what it meant for a group of 
people to do things together. [I would] just sort of get 
the people to the point where they would do the things 
from a spirit of their own understanding rather than having 
something silly dictated to them to do or something that 
would make them feel silly, because I think if they were 
taken out of context, they might feel silly doing them. 
We had prepared, I think, a bag for each person, and there 
were — let's see — there were balloons and hats and I can't 
remember what .... 

GALM: I think a quotation, too, possibly. 
CORITA: A quotation, yes, a quotation that they were to 
read to the person next to them. So it was an effort to have 
a small celebration just about being together because it 
really wasn't commemorating anything or celebrating anything 



83 



outside of just the fact that we were there together. 

GALM: This individual said that they all broke out singing 

"Auld Lang Syne. " 

CORITA: Yes, now that you say that, yes. [laughter] 

GALM: Which does seem to indicate that the spirit was 

moved. 

CORITA: Yes, yes. Well, again, then I think--maybe I 

mentioned this to you when I was talking about giving 

assignments .... 



84 



TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE TWO 
APRIL 13, 1976 

GALM: You were going to mention something about student 
assignments in connection with — did you actually call 
these happenings, or . . . ? 
CORITA: Yes, they did. 

GALM: Oh, they did. [laughter] What did you call them? 
CORITA: I don't know--they were just jobs. [laughter] But 
in giving assignments to the students, I think I talked to 
you about trying to separate their reasoning function from 
their intuitive function, or maybe more their analytical 
function from their synthetic function, their putting things 
together. Or their critical — that's better — the critical 
from their creative function. So that if you could get 
people to the point where their critical faculties were 
involved in something, almost anything, their creative 
functions could function more freely, because they don't 
go together: one is taking apart, and one is putting 
together; one is making, and one is reviewing what has been 
made. And if you're reviewing while you are making, you 
become very awkward in the making. I suppose it would be 
like an actor thinking "Now I am acting and what is the 
audience thinking?" instead of just being fully in the part. 
So for the happening, I usually had about five or six things 
as instructions that I would tell them to do, and they were 



85 



very definite with very short-term goals so that nobody 
in the room would feel that they were difficult to do. I 
mean, trained as we are to do what we're told to do, they 
were very serious about this and they would do them — one, 
two, three, four, five. And they were so constructed, 
the directions, that they created the form for the celebra- 
tion, and the people then brought that form to life. 
GALM: What was the company trying to accomplish by these 
assignments? 

CORITA: I think companies or anybody that puts on conven- 
tions is always trying to do something that will make the 
convention less deadly, [laughter] rather than just having 
all speeches or all discussions--to have something. In 
fact, where was it that we did a program with . . . ? Oh, 
I know. I was invited to put on one of these happenings 
at a ... . What was it called? I'm trying to think if 
it was at Yale or some comparable institution, and they 
were having a meeting of theologians. And we were on the 
last night. I brought two people along to help me. And 
all of the people said, "You know, it would have been much 
better if this had happened at the beginning of the confer- 
ence instead of at the end." Because it just sort of undid 
everybody: they started talking to each other and being 
very relaxed. And it would have been a good thing to start 
with and then carry on their deep theological discussions. 



86 



GALM: I know when we ended last time, you mentioned that 
you had just received from a friend a Hallmark brochure or 
something ... 
CORITA: A book. 

GALM: . . . and that what they were doing were things that 
you and your students at Immaculate Heart had thrown away, 
or had .... 

CORITA: Well, I was thinking not so much that we had 
thrown away, but they were obviously borrowed techniques. 
They were poor examples of things that we would have 
discarded if I had the group. You know, if I had each 
person do a group of fifty, then we would choose the best 
from that. And I think it had the tone that they were things 
we wouldn't have taken. 

GALM: You mentioned that they were dead. What techniques 
did you use to infuse life into . . . ? 

CORITA: Well, I think for me, in a picture, life is a sort 
of synonym for quality. And if a thing has quality, it lives, 
And if it's hackneyed or if it's amateurish, or if it just 
doesn't have good form, doesn't have good shapes, it just 
doesn't work. Like bad poetry, you know. They can use 
marvelous words, but put them together in the wrong order, 
or use corny words--you know the difference between a good 
poem and a bad poem, or one that just really excites you 
and which you can live with for a long time or something you 



87 



read and you say, "Well, that's rather obvious." So I 
think some of those same distinctions hold, and it's a 
matter of just exercising yourself in looking until you 
become more and more refined. And then, of course, you 
always have surprises, too. I always had great surprises 
with the students. As they would put out their things, we 
would all stand around and talk about them. A lot of 
times, I would look at a certain piece and say, "I don't 
like that." I would say this to myself, and as different 
people talked about it, a lot of times I would look at it 
again and find that there was something in it that my set 
of prejudices had prevented me from seeing; I began to see 
it differently and liked it. So that it wasn't a matter of 
quality, it was a matter of myself blocking myself from 
seeing what may have been a new form to me. 

GALM: I noticed in one of the things that you'd written — I 
assume that maybe it was a pass-out to the students--that 
you were talking about screens that operate and that there 
are two major screens, one being the screen of history, 
and I think the other screen being that--it has to do with 
ugliness, that .... 

CORITA: We have in our minds that certain things are ugly, 
and so we don't really look at them. 

GALM: Did you have any specific assignments for them to 
overcome this prejudice? 



88 



CORITA: Yes, I remember at that time I was very excited 
about billboards. I guess it was the whole era of pop art. 
And I also got very excited about sections of the city that 
I would have called ugly before. I took the students to — 
there were two Mark [C] Bloome tire companies; one was the 
one on Sunset Boulevard, I think, and the other was down on 
La Brea, perhaps, or in that area below Wilshire. So we 
just went there, either with cameras or with little finders, 
you know, a piece of paper with a rectangle cut out of the 
center which you can look in and just see a small section. 
And we just spent the afternoon, two afternoons, one at 
one place and one at the other, just looking. And of course, 
taking off small pieces, little rectangles, that are like 
taking a picture, you can take a section, or maybe a section 
of a letter [where] not the whole word shows and certainly 
not the whole gas station. There were some things you 
couldn't do anything good with, like artificial flowers. 
And there was a marvelously funny wall behind the one down 
on La Brea, behind piles of tires. The piles of tires were 
beautiful because they were really just piled up so nicely, 
and they were nice looking as tires, and all. And behind 
them was painted — or I guess it was wallpaper — a kind of 
imitation bricks and ivy. [laughter] It was hysterical. 
But then I was thinking the other day — I was driving 
down, riding down Western Avenue, down as far as Third 



89 



street, and I couldn't believe how ugly a place could be. 
And then of course I think I feel very differently about 
Hollywood, having lived in Boston, because I'm living in a 
part of Boston in which the houses were built in the late 
1800s, and they have such a community. They belong together, 
even though they're very different and have kind of funny 
parts to them, as if they were taken out of a catalog and 
put together. But they're all kind of brownstone, and 
they're all about the same height, and they're all residences 
— though by now cut up into apartments, but they were 
residences . 

GALM: Of course, massage parlors moved into Western after 
you left. 

CORITA: Right. Oh, yes, yes. 

GALM: Can you see beauty in those signs? [laughter] 
CORITA: No, I couldn't. I said to myself, "This is really 
depressing. This is really ugly." So I think it had to 
do with selecting out of that. It was not really .... 
Then, of course, if you put a lot of things together, like 
a whole row of neon signs, for example, even if they have 
little cocktail signs with water dripping into them, still, 
the conglomerate can be kind of exciting. Like Broadway, I 
guess. Somebody said if you couldn't read English, Broadway 
would be beautiful with its night lights. 

GALM: Your prints that now depend — no, I shouldn't use the 
word "depend" — that use phrases that are so well known to 



90 



the mind, like "a tiger in your tank"--well, of course, 

twenty years, thirty years from now, no one' 11 realize the 

significance of some of those phrases, those catch phrases. 

CORITA: I don't think I ever worry about something I do 

lasting forever. I think at that time, those were very 

meaningful to some people, and it was just a kind of 

contagious, fun thing that I got into. 

GALM: Do you think they can still stand on their own merit, 

then? 

CORITA: I think so, visually, um-hmm. Not in the same 

sense, I suppose, as the more poetic ones would, but I 

think those distinctions are not really valid. Things are 

different, and maybe one isn't better than the other. 

And some things that last longer may not be better than some 

things that are just good for the moment. I think I don't 

like distinctions much. [laughter] 

GALM: Can you remember the first time that you decided to 

take a slogan, a TV slogan, or a Madison Avenue phrase? 

CORITA: Yes. One summer, the last print I made — I think 

it was the last print I made — was Go Slow . Well, that 

was taken from just a traffic signal, and it had a — what is 

it? — a reverse curve, that warns you that you're coming to 

the end. It also has an arrow. And then I entitled it 

Luke --I ' ve forgotten the chapter and verse, but it was that 

section in St. Luke where he talks about Mary keeping all 



91 



these things in her heart [Luke 2:14,51]. And there was a 
big, red heart in it also. So I really thought of that as 
my then picture of the Immaculate Heart, which was just a 
very bold, graphic set of symbols. That was the first one. 
And then another one of the very early ones was, I took the 
"In" from the parking lot next to us and the arrow and used 
that pretty literally [In] . But it depends on the colors 
and shapes and what you do with them. 

I did this for two or three years, two at least, and 
I remember it was the second year, that summer we were up 
at Montecito with Dan Berrigan. And I remember once, we 
had a marvelous night. There were about four of us with 
Dan, and I knew that I was going to come home and make my 
prints. And I thought, "VJell, this is a great opportunity. 
I'll get some help before I go." So we all got together 
with a bunch of magazines and tore phrases. I suggested 
that everybody take two phrases from separate ads that were 
fun together. And some of those I actually pasted up and 
used. 

GALM: Was there an inclination at first to tie in the 
phrases to something more--such as a biblical phrase, or 
a . . . ? 

CORITA: Yes, for the most part, I thought of them as meaning 
something else. Like, "put a tiger in your tank" I really 
think of as saying [that] the spirit, whatever the spirit 



92 



means to us, is inside of us, the God who is in us, or who 
is us, whatever, however you want to say it. Coming out of 
me, I think people read them on that level. And usually, 
these prints were seen in the context of a show, where there 
was enough — how shall I say it? — well, there might be a 
poem or another phrase, or it might even be a scriptural 
phrase juxtaposed or a poetic phrase juxtaposed. So they 
got the idea that these were to be read on another level. 
So they became symbols, in a sense. 

GALM: Did you always feel that juxtaposition was necessary 
for the people to understand? Or eventually could the phrase 
stand on its own, even though it was, say, a common phrase? 
CORITA: I think I always wanted to do something with it 
myself, because even the In print, as I now think, had a 
little phrase from Lewis Carroll which says, [laughter] "When 
I choose a word, it means just what I choose it to mean." 
GALM: I guess that's exactly what you're doing, isn't it? 
CORITA: Yes. [laughter] It's the old teacher in me, I 
guess, yes. 

GALM: What about colors? When you decide upon color .... 
That one is black, and it's blue, and it's very strong. 
CORITA: Yes, yes. I love that print [Iri] . It's 
one of my very favorites. Well, the color--you know, it was 
funny: in that time when I was describing working with a 
group of people helping, a lot of times whoever was mixing 



93 



the paint would say, "What color are you going to use next?" 
And I would say, "Why don't you make one, and we'll see if 
it works?" So, sometimes it was a surprising thing like 
that because somebody else would be throwing in a color. I'm 
sure if I hadn't liked it, I would have said no. But if 
it came from somebody else, and I liked it, I took it. 
For example, the colors in my newest prints, I just felt a 
need to move away from the primary colors, the rainbow 
colors, which I'd been using for a number of years, and 
do something that was just a little different, kind of off, 
kind of calm. And these prints — they just came this morning 
— as I look at them, I find them very calm and quiet. From 
time to time I have read myself, and now I think I'm more 
up with myself, and I know that there is a calming in me. 
When I was making the prints, I didn't think, "I am feeling 
calmer now," but as I look at them now, I say, "Yeah, that's 
what's happening in me, too." 

GALM: So in that middle period, say in the sixties, there 
was perhaps more of a need to make strong statements with 
strong color? 
CORITA: Yes. 

GALM: You mention community. You mentioned the students 
began to reject the idea of working in a group assignment. 
CORITA: Some, not all. Some were the good old-fashioned kind 
who were willing, gung-ho to do anything. And I thought of 



94 



these group projects as marvelous experiences for the 
students, because I thought, well, if they're going to get 
into art work, this is what they're going to be doing. 
They're going to be working for somebody, and they're going 
to have to take orders from someone; and they'll never 
have it this good because they'll never get to really do 
their own things. They'll probably in the beginning be more 
often told what to do more specifically than I was telling 
them. But I thought here was a chance to have their work 
shown publicly and also to be a part of something bigger. 
But that was my view of it, and it wasn't always theirs — 
or the view of all of them. 

GALM: Do you think the Immaculate Heart art department 
was unique in that it undertook so many group projects? 
CORITA: Yes, I think so. 

GALM: Anybody else that you know of that was doing . . . ? 
CORITA: No, no. People were having exhibits of student 
work, but they would be assemblages of individual work. I'm 
not saying again that one is better or one is worse, but 
they're just — it was a kind of different experience. 
GALM: Was that an approach that you began immediately as 
soon as you started teaching in art? 

CORITA: No, no. I think in the beginning I taught more as 
I had been taught, and this sort of evolved as we bumped 
into different things, as we bumped into new problems. 



95 



GALM: Do you think that the fact that you were part of a 
comrnunity--did that have any bearing on your ability, 
perhaps, to work with community projects? 

CORITA: I never thought of it, but I'm sure it made it a 
very natural thing to do, yes. 

GALM: Because there must bave been other things within 
the community that you did as a community. 
CORITA: Um-hmm, um-hmm, right. 
GALM: Learned how to make use of the best. 
CORITA: Yes, that's right, um-hmm. In fact, the whole 
community was just that. [laughter] With each person doing 
what she could do best. 

GALM: Well, it sort of struck me when you said that about 
the students beginning not to want to do as much as group 
projects that maybe--was it just a reflection of time change? 
CORITA: Well, I think maybe that was a reflection, and maybe 
this is getting back to the question you asked earlier, 
that that was probably the form that revolt took place. I 
mean, the form which the revolt took on our campus was that 
the students got to be not wanting to be told what to do. 
And it began to sort of disintegrate all of the requirements 
and the prepared programs. Now I think there are no require- 
ments except those that each department sets up. And those 
are very few. I think in one sense, it was a necessity, and 
they probably had to come to it. But I think in another 



96 



sense, something is lost because there were many required 
classes that the students would take and would then get 
wildly interested in. It may just have turned their whole 
direction or made them change their major, and if they 
hadn't been forced into the class, they would never have 
chosen to take it. So I suppose it's like anybody, like 
people raising children. It's always a hard line; it's 
always hard to draw the line or hit the balance as to what 
young people should be just commanded to do which they'll 
never have sense enough to choose for themselves, or how 
much they should be allowed .... I remember Margaret 
Mead saying — I went to a very small seminar of hers in the 
East, and there were about four students who came with this 
one teacher. They were college-age students, young college. 
And Margaret Mead was saying that she thought everyone 
should put in two years of voluntary service to their country 
— certainly not going to war, but just helping people. 
And this one young man said, "I don't think that's a good 
idea. I wouldn't mind volunteering, but I wouldn't like to 
be told what to do." And she turned on him, and she said, 
"That's just the trouble with you young people today. You 
don't want to be told to do anything." [laughter] She 
said, "You know very well that if it weren't enforced, or 
if it weren't an obligation, most young people wouldn't do 
it." She really gave it to him in no uncertain terms. But 



97 



I think that's true: a lot of people wouldn't. And yet at 

the same time, it's awful to force people to do things. 

GALM: You also mentioned that there was perhaps a certain 

resentment of your growing reputation as an artist. 

CORITA: Um-hmm. It was a very difficult time, I think, for 

the students because I was away a lot more than they thought 

I should be away. And again, I thought that was good for 

them because I would leave them with a lot of work to do. 

They had peace and quiet to do it in, and then when I came 

back, you know, we would look at the work. And then it got 

also very difficult because we began to have a lot of 

visitors at the college, and sometimes that interfered with 

classes, or it would take me out of the class. And some of 

the students resented that. So the fame sort of got in the 

way, in a sense. And they were just angry. But as I say, 

students were angry in those days. So it was . . . 

GALM: You were a focus for some of it. 

CORITA: Yes, yes. 

GALM: When did your fame really begin? 

CORITA: I think it just sort of grew as I began to exhibit 

and then do some public things. 

GALM: Was there any one particular . . . ? 

CORITA: You see, I've been at work a long time. 

GALM: From ' 51 to . . . . [laughter] That's pretty good. 

CORITA: Yes, to '76. At one of my exhibits, this young boy 



98 



came up to me and said, "You know, I really like the sort of 
stuff you're doing, this putting words and shapes together." 
He said, "You know, I'm out of a job now, and I was wondering 
if you could tell me how to get started in this, producing 
these things." He was looking at the cards that were made 
from the prints. And I had such a sinking feeling because 
I thought, here's this young kid who just thinks he can 
start, and what a rude awakening he has in store for him! 
So then I think I said something about, well, you know, I 
taught for thirty-two years and did this on the side, and 
then I began — I was finished teaching — doing it full time or 
as much time as I wanted to spend on it. So I said, "It's 
a matter of working at it for a long time." 
GALM: Was there ever a point before you stopped teaching, 
that you thought to yourself that you wanted to be artist 
first and teacher second? 

CORITA: No. No, I always thought I wanted it the other 
way around. I always thought that I was a teacher and not 
an artist, and that I really did that on the side. 
GALM: Was there a great enough shift in feeling that it 
entered into your leaving the community? 
CORITA: No, no. I think — well, I shouldn't say that, 
because I think that first summer that I went away, it was 
[with] this friend of mine, Celia Hubbard, with whom I 
went to stay in Cape Cod, who lives in Boston. She was the 



99 



one who had, I think, written a letter--! found this out 
later--to the president of the college to say if something 
weren't done about me, I was going to have a nervous break- 
down. Other people could see the pace at which I was 
going, which was really insane toward the end, and I don't 
think I quite realized it. I was young and healthy, and I 
said no to so many things that I thought I was saying no to 
as much as was possible. But apparently I wasn't. So 
when I found out how simple life was just staying with one 
person and making prints for a whole summer, it began to 
dawn on me what I had been doing, and I just couldn't do 
it anymore. I had to get away from it, I think, to see it, 
get out of it to experience what it was to be out of it, 
before I could realize it. And it was at that point that I 
decided that I just couldn't teach anymore, that I didn't 
want to teach anymore. Because I had a lot of offers to 
teach after I left, marvelous people who wrote, you know. 
Some of them were worried about what I was going to do. 
[laughter] "We'll take you!" And in fact a couple of years 
ago, I was asked to be the artist in residence at Harvard, 
and I just burst out laughing because it just struck me as 
so funny, really. I said I was sorry; I was really very 
impressed and very honored, but I just couldn't connect it 
with me. But then I said I really wasn't ready to get back 
into that, if I ever would be, because it would mean, you 



100 



know, going to the school two or three days a week, being 
there, doing my own work, and letting the students come as 
they wanted to — and I think I can't work anymore except by 
myself. So to think of having students around--! suppose if 
I did it, it might be fun; and I really don't ever close the 
door and say I will never teach again. In fact, I did teach 
a night [class] --this time I was in Los Angeles--for a 
group, but it was because I was very interested in the person 
who had the group and I wanted to do it. And it was a fun 
experience. But I love the freedom of not being responsible 
for anybody else. 

GALM: But during those last years, you had never got to the 
point where you actually resented the students? 
CORITA: As interfering with my own work? No. Because I 
really thought that was my work. See, I think I am very 
creative, and I think my teaching was very creative. I 
think it's possible to do anything, like to teach — almost 
anything that's relatively human--and be creative in it. I 
don't think you have to be painting or sculpting or composing 
music to be artistic or to be creative. And I think that 
that satisfied my creative .... I found teaching really 
always very hard because I think I always maintained the 
feeling that I couldn't do it, that I wasn't quite up to it. 
So I worked very hard, and I think I made classes very good 
because I wasn't too sure of myself. So that was a kind of 



101 



a bonus, a painful bonus. 

GALM: Were your students able to go out and be themselves 
as artists, or was there an inclination for them to be 
other Coritas? 

CORITA: Little Coritas. Very few of the students in the 
early days went into the arts. In fact, we used to discour- 
age them against it. We said to them very frankly, you know, 
"If you go into the art field, you will start at the bottom; 
you will do things that you know you don't want to do and 
that you know you are not good at. It would be much better 
if you got a job typing or teaching or doing something and 
did your art on the side until you got to the point"-- 
which I suppose was really my own pattern — "got to the 
point where it would be acceptable. And then you could 
switch over into the art." And for the most part, the art 
majors became teachers. And I suppose this was a very 
natural outcome because they were taught in such a way that 
they made great teachers. They learned how to throw problems 
to their students and let them open up under the problems, 
instead of just sort of teaching them in a routine fashion. 
We really, I think, sent out some spectacular teachers. 
GALM: You had mentioned Celia Hubbard. Now, wasn't she the 
woman who . . . ? 

CORITA: She was the director of the Botolph [Group Inc.]. 
GALM: Botolph. Were you connected with the Botolph Group 



102 



from the very beginning? 

CORITA: Yes, we had things on exhibit. I had things on 

exhibit — and I think the students did, too — in the first 

exhibit they put on. And then, whenever we'd go East, that 

was always one of the places we stopped and spoke for that 

group. 

GALM: How did she form that center? 

CORITA: She was a convert to Catholicism. She had been a 

professional artist, and coming into the Church, she could 

see the kind of ugly artifacts that were available to most 

people and thought it would be a good thing to do to create 

a place where people could come to find things for the home 

that were beautiful, like crucifixes and pictures and 

sculptures and creche sets and so forth. And then they also 

did some consulting jobs for churches and chapels in the East. 

GALM: So her relationship with you would have been just to 

invite you to show your work or to actually purchase your 

work . . . 

CORITA: . . . and to come and speak, yes. 

GALM: But you wouldn't have been active in, say, its 

continuing philosophy. 

CORITA: No, I think at least toward the end, that need is 

melting away, people are also learning that a lot of objects 

are religious which we didn't formerly think were religious. 

So it [Botolph Group Gallery] grew into a kind of a shop. 



103 



It was always a very sparkling kind of thing because Celia's 
a very sparkling kind of person, and they always had a lot 
of my things around, a lot of my cards and prints. I 
suppose I was sort of their chief permanent artist, so to 
speak. But there were always interesting things there, and 
it attracted a lot of young people. 

GALM: I know there was a Boston Tea Party held there. When 
was that? I wasn't able to establish the date. Harvey 
Cox and . . . 

CORITA: . . . and Dan Berrigan and Judy Collins, yes. 
GALM: Was that after you moved back? 

CORITA: Yes. I was living with Celia. I stayed with Celia 
that first year when we moved from the Cape back up to 
Boston. I stayed with her. And it was during that year--so 
it must have been '69 or '70. I think it could have been 
around Christmastime. And we put it on in a place called 
the Boston Tea Party, which was a discotheque, [laughter] 
which had been an old church. It had been many different 
kinds of churches, but it had originally been built for a 
church and had been taken over by different denominations. 
In fact, it still had the words sort of sculptured over a 
great central arch that said something about — it was a 
scriptural quotation; I can't think of what it was. But 
it had just stayed there all the time. So it was just 
really for the building that .... 



104 



GALM: Was it just sort of a fund raiser, or was it just 

an evening of celebration? 

CORITA: No, it was just an evening of celebration. No 

hat was passed. [laughter] No admission was charged. It 

was just a celebration, and it really went .... I 

showed a lot of slides, and we had, of course, music with 

them. That was during the wartime, so there were a lot of 

visual commentaries on that. And then Harvey and Dan spoke, 

and Judy sang, and I spoke, and then we had enough bread 

and wine for everybody. We passed it around. It was an 

unbelievable crowd, but we did it. 

GALM: Did you multiply it a bit, or ... ? 

CORITA: No, we just bought enough. [laughter] But that 

was a really marvelous evening, and it was great. And some 

people got a little disturbed. Some of the older Botolph 

board members got a little disturbed because they thought 

we were having communion--which indeed we were. [laughter] 

But we were not tyring to usurp the powers of the Church. 

We were just eating and drinking together. 

GALM: Now, with these commissions, you were making some 

money. Right? 

CORITA: Um-hmm, yes, yes. 

GALM: Now at that time, was the money then funneled back 

into the community? 

CORITA: Into the college. 



105 



GALM: Into the college. 

CORITA: Um-hmm, yes. And then, whenever--toward the end, 
it was really, you know, greater amounts, as jobs began to 
multiply, and so it would go to the college. And then, 
whenever we needed anything, we would just get it and send 
the bills to the business department. So that in a sense 
we could do a lot of things because we really had money to 
work with. 

GALM: When the college was contemplating a move to Claremont, 
did the fact that you and the art department were so active 
as far as commissions play into the possiblity of its 
having money to move? 

CORITA: No, it never was that much money. No. I think it 
was more that--I mean, the contribution we made in that area 
was more that we had sort of publicized and helped to create 
first, I think, some of the spirit that was communicable. 
A lot of spirit had always been going on before the art 
department got active because we always really had a very 
creative faculty. But I think we gave it a kind of push 
from the inside. Also I think we could make it public, in 
a way. For example, the science department or the language 
department, though they were good departments and doing 
perhaps as effective work as we were doing with their students, 
had no way of making themselves known--somewhat to the resent- 
ment, understandably, of, say, the science teachers, who 



106 



would go to a convention, and if they said they were 
from Immaculate Heart — "Oh, that's that art college." 
[laughter] And they didn't like being called an art 
college. So that was difficult. But, no, the money wasn't 
that much. 

GALM: Did you play a part administratively within the 
college, other than chairman of the department? Did you 
serve on any boards of note? 

CORITA: There was something — what was it called? I think 
it was called the academic senate, but I wouldn't be too 
sure--which was composed of the heads of the departments. 
And we discussed programs and such like. 

GALM: Did you ever enter into any heavy decision making for 
the college? 

CORITA: I don't know. I used to try to avoid committees 
as far as possible. I'm not a meeting person. But there 
was so much interchange among us as faculty that I think if 
there was any contribution made, it was made more on those 
terms than in a kind of political fashion. I think it's a 
better kind of politics. 

GALM: When did you get into the book publishing business? 
What was the first book? 

CORITA: Continuum was a magazine — I don't know if it's 
still in existence--that was printed in Chicago, which was 
kind of a quality theological popular magazine, probably not 



107 



too popular, but good quality. I'm trying to think of the 
man's name who wrote and asked me if I would do a section 
for them that would be published in the magazine and later 
would be published as a book. [doorbell rings; tape 
recorder turned off] 

GALM: You were talking about Continuum . Was it Continuum ? 
CORITA: Continuum , yes. And so then they — I think Herder 
and Herder; there was some connection with Herder and 
Herder — and then they published it in a book form. It was 
called Footnotes and Headlines . [1967] 
GALM: So the prayer book was the first publication. 
CORITA: That's right. That's really the only one that I've 
written, if you would call it written. The others are all 
books which I've sort of coauthored, by the fact that some- 
one wrote the words and I did the visual part. 

GALM: How did--like the To-Believe-In series--how did you get 
caught up with the poet? 

CORITA: Well, I had met Joe Pintauro--in fact, he was a 
priest in the early days, when I was going to New York. There 
was sort of a group of friends in New York whom we'd see all 
the time, and he was sort of in that group. And then when 
he began working in the publishing department--he ' s working 
for an advertising agency and writes on the side. And he — 
oh, I know. I used to answer letters on things that I had 
printed. No, that doesn't make sense. If I did something 



108 



for a company or an organization, I would usually say, 
especially in the days before I got paid, do 500 extra for 
us or 300 extra for us. And then we would give these away, 
or I would write letters on them. And I had answered one 
of his letters on the back of a reproduction of one of my 
prints which says, "To believe in God is to know that all 
the rules are fair, and there will be wonderful surprises." 
And he just got all inspired by that and started to write, 
wrote me a great letter--! think it came for Easter--f illed 
with all kinds of confetti and what have you. But on each 
page he had written his own "To believe in God is . . . ." 
And that was the book [To Believe in God ] . So then later we 
got the idea of publishing it. 
GALM: What about the other book? 

CORITA: There's one To Believe in Man and one To Believe in 
Things . 

GALM: The other question I had is, tell me about Easter 
tomatoes. Was that the Heinz Ketchup series, or is that 
something else? 

CORITA: Well, I did a print — Sam Eisenstein is a teacher at 
[L.A.] City College, an English teacher who writes. He had 
come to one of the Mary's Days and had been very moved and 
wrote me this letter saying how great it was. And he 
included this marvelous thing which he had written on Mary; 
and one of the phrases that really made it memorable was 



109 



"Mary was the juiciest tomato of all." [laughter] And in 
the context, it was really beautiful. The whole thing was 
gracefully done. So I made a print from it, using those 
words [ Tomato (1967)). Well, I was aware of how "tomato" 
was used colloquially, but I felt--you know, at that time, 
language was taking a turn [such that] you could hardly 
use a word without it having some other meaning. And I 
figured that wasn't fair for people to destroy words that — 
and at that time, I did a lot of research into tomato, and 
Sam did some for me, too, and found out that it really had 
a marvelous history and was connected in fact, at one point, 
I'm quite sure, with the mystical rose. 



110 



TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE ONE 
APRIL 13, 1976 and APRIL 20, 1976 

GALM: I believe you were tracing the origins of tomato 

and the mystical rose. 

CORITA: Yeah, there was some medieval use of it as a 

religious symbol for Our Lady, I think. I hope I'm not 

making this up. But that caused just more trouble than 

could be imagined over such a simple thing, because people 

said, you know, "That's a dirty word. How can you use that 

in connection with the Blessed Mother?" So that was .... 

GALM: Did you get in trouble with the chancery on that, or 

just overall criticism? 

CORITA: Well, they had a funny way of acting. I suppose 

it was very normal, because it was a very hierarchical way. 

I never got into trouble: the head of the community and 

the head of the college got into trouble. [laughter] But 

they [the chancery] wouldn't bother dealing with me. 

GALM: How would the head of the college and the head of 

the community then deal with you? 

CORITA: Well, fortunately, they liked what I was doing, you 

see, and believed that we should be able to do what we 

wanted to do. So they would tell me about it, and we 

would kind of groan together, and .... 

GAUI: Go on. 

CORITA: Yes. But nobody said, "Don't do that anymore." 



Ill 



GALM: So was the community life ever a restriction on your 
artistic endeavor? 

CORITA: No. I remember we had a few — two people I think of 
who were at one time or other the heads of the community 
who really didn't like what we were doing, tastewise. I 
mean, it wasn't to their taste. But there was never any 
kind of restriction about it. And I thought it was very 
interesting, because one of these people [Sister Regina 
McPartlin] is now working in a hospital and came to me the 
other day to ask me to design three rooms in the hospital. 
So if you wait long enough, [laughter] things come round. 
GALM: Why don't we stop for today? 

APRIL 20, 1976 [video session] 

GALM: We're here in North Hollywood at 5126 Vineland Avenue, 
and we're speaking with Corita Kent in her gallery [Corita 
Prints]. And with us are two members of the gallery family, 
Mary Downey (Mrs. Frank Downey) and Gladys Collins. I think 
we might first find out how the two women became members of 
Corita' s gallery family. Mary, when did you become active 
in Corita' s art life? 

DOV^nsiEY: Well, Corita first called me in about 1968 and 
asked if I would come up and help her just for a few hours 
a week. I was glad to do that because I've loved this woman 
all of my life and knew how hard she'd worked. Before that. 



112 



the students had helped with the exhibits going out, and 
friends [had helped], but this seemed to be a bleak period, 
where everyone had abandoned the ship for some reason. 
CORITA: And the work got heavier. 

DOWNEY: That's right. The stacks — the exhibits went up 
that high. So I went up at first for just a few hours a 
week. But then it soon increased, because during that time, 
right at that time, I might say, the change in the community 
began yeasting. So then that's when I began actually 
working directly with Corita in this work. 
GALM: Had something happened in your own personal life 
that allowed you the freedom at this point? 
DOWNEY: Well, I had lots of boys at home, and I knew when 
I had finished with the boys and they had all gone on 
their own way that that was going to be my fun work. I was 
going up to help Corita at the art department. I didn't 
know what I could do, but I knew I could do something to be 
of help — scrub floors or something. [laughter] So at this 
time, some of the boys had left--one was in Vietnam, and one 
had left unhappily, so I was kind of unhappy myself. So it 
was nice to have that break. It was an exciting place to be. 
GALM: Mrs. Collins, when did you come to the gallery? 
COLLINS: Well, I had known the both of them for a long time, 
and I wasn't doing anything, and [I was] feeling useless, 
you know, like I should do something for humanity or something. 



113 



So I'd help somebody, and I went and asked Mary if I might 

come up and help her one day a week. And in about two 

weeks after that, I was helping every day. 

CORITA: We never let her go, [laughter] 

COLLINS: We moved out here, and from then on ... . Oh, 

my friends are so envious of me, to have such a beautiful 

job, which is just as I want, you know, to come and go as 

I please, almost, and its being such a lovely place. "How 

did [you] fall into it?" they say. 

GALM: At that time, had you any inkling of what it might 

become for you? 

COLLINS: Oh, not at all; oh, not at all. I had no thought 

of it. I was just getting tired staying home, and wanted 

to--I've always loved Immaculate Heart. The art department 

there was an inspiration, really. It was just nice to be 

there, and I thought I'd go back, be with the young people 

and the arts and that. 

GALM: Corita, when did you meet Gladys, then? 

CORITA: Well, I had met Gladys, I'm sure, because she was 

a longtime friend of Mary's. But I think I--well, I was 

away, actually, when she came to help Mary. So I really 

met her, got to know her, when she was working in the 

gallery. 

GALM: But didn't you know her also as a student, then? 

CORITA: Yes, I knew her as a student, true. Those were big 



114 



crowded classes, and we didn't get very much chance to have 

contact. But Gladys was in classes for quite a while. 

COLLINS: Eight years. 

CORITA: Eight years, during those times, yes. 

COLLINS: Adult education. 

GALM: How large were those classes? 

CORITA: Well, they started out at about--they could be 

sixty or seventy, the first night. They weren't always 

that big the second night. [laughter] 

GALM: What did you do to scare them away? 

CORITA: Well, the first night was sort of an indoctrination 

and the beginning assignment. 

COLLINS: Oh, that did it. 

CORITA: That did it. I remember once we had a mathematician 

who did a great deal of traveling in his work, and he had 

to miss classes once in a while. He finally came and said, 

— he was doing his work on the plane going back and forth, 

what could be done in a small space — and he said, "When 

I came to take the course, I didn't know it was going to 

take my whole life." [laughter] But the weak ones dropped 

out quickly. 

GALM: So you must have been a very strong one, Gladys, 

because you stayed for six or eight years. [laughter] 

CORITA: She was a strong one, yes. 

GALM: What was your feeling, the first assignment period 



115 



that . . . ? 

COLLINS: Well, as she said, the first day, she would tell 

them a big assignment, and that would scare a lot of people. 

But I thought maybe I could get [by] with not so much. 

DOWNEY: She being a teacher knew some of the tricks. 

GALM: So you thought perhaps there was a little bit of 

bluff there. 

COLLINS: I thought there was a little break I could get 

by with. 

GALM: Over the years, over the time that you were a 

student, what assignment stood out as being the most exciting? 

COLLINS: Making banners, I believe. Corita had charge of 

those banners, and during several years at Immaculate 

Heart, they made huge banners. They would have parades, and 

they were tall--they were as tall as a room. We'd make 

those, and very often we'd make a story, in the banner, of 

some kind. 

GALM: Did you participate in Mary's Day? 

COLLINS: Yes, yes. I did. 

GALM: Can you describe what it was like to be a participant? 

COLLINS: Well, very exhilarating, very exciting, color and 

happiness. And everybody was happy, walking up the hill with 

their banners flying, and color, and sitting down and eating 

bread. I don't know whether they had wine or not. 

CORITA: Yes, we had wine, I think. 



116 



COLLINS: I don't remember that. 

DOWNEY: It was real, wasn't it? 

COLLINS: Yes, it was a spontaneous movement, I believe. 

I don't think anybody--it was never rehearsed. 

CORITA: No. 

COLLINS: They just did it, and they did what they felt 

like doing. 

CORITA: There was a lot of planning behind it, but it 

wasn't .... 

COLLINS: Oh, I'm sure. 

CORITA: But the actions weren't rehearsed. 

GALM: Why did you need a gallery at this point? 

CORITA: Well, at that time, the art department was getting 

more and more crowded, partly because of the folk art 

collection and partly because the students were increasing. 

We finally got down to having one big room where everything 

happened. So Mary and Glady would be wrapping exhibits to 

go or taking care of their business, and the lights would go 

out for that class to show a film. So it was partly crowded 

and partly the amount of activity there. And we decided 

that it would be better for the prints to be out someplace 

else. It was at that time that Mary and Frank located this 

place, which was close to their home. We thought of it at 

that time just as a storage space, and then it gradually 

worked into a gallery. 



117 



GALM: Were you having any problem with security of the 

prints at Immaculate Heart at that point? 

CORITA: No, not really. I think we used to have a kind of 

joking curse over the door that — I mean, it was purely 

mental — that anyone who took anything would really feel 

bad about it. 

GALM: For days. 

CORITA: Right, right. [laughter] No, it was really 

amazing, but we didn't have that problem. 

GALM: Or even, I mean, the handling--perhaps too much 

handling? 

CORITA: Well, they were always in cabinets and fairly safe, 

or up on the wall where people could look at them. 

GALM: I see. Well, once you had decided on the property, 

Mary, how did you go about creating a gallery? 

DOWNEY: Well, just as Gladys said earlier, it just evolved. 

Because first we kept pouring the stuff in from the art 

department up here, and our boys helped and some students 

helped and Frank helped. And it was just like Bekins 

storage: we got a big truck and just carried them in and 

carried them in. We've taken pictures of them, of the 

gallery in those early days--just stores, stacks of these 

prints. And we brought the drawers right out from the 

cabinets up there, rolled the drawers out. And then the 

boys brought the shelves and they drove them right in here. 



118 



And then the other prints — Frank made all those cabinets, 
those levels of shelves. And we got the idea to make 
boxes, so we made our own boxes, with staplers and such, 
and numbered them and all. And we were just so much 
intent on that, on caring for the prints and getting them 
in an order, that I don't think we ever thought of it as a 
gallery. 

COLLINS: We just kept — one thing would happen, and then 
something else, and we would change. 

GALM: What prompted you to start thinking of it as a gallery? 
DOWNEY: Well, I think some of the people did know we had 
moved here with Corita's prints. That's the attraction, 
you must remember. And they kept coming in. And then I 
can't stand a place when it's ugly. And I think Corita's 
prints are so beautiful that they really deserve a beautiful 
background. So Corita paid to have — we asked her, and she 
said, "Just go ahead," so we had it painted, we all pitched 
in and painted; and then later on, we had the floor laid, 
and it came to be what it is today. The background is nice, 
and it's not really very pretentious; but it is an atmosphere 
like Corita and her prints are, that everybody feels welcome. 
They're not put off, like a fancy gallery might. They feel 
welcome and at home and able to look at the prints, no 
pressure for them to buy. We know they'll buy; [laughter] 
they can't help but buy. 



119 



GALM: This is an iffy question. Do you think the gallery 

would have its same popularity — or not popularity, but 

perhaps atmosphere — if it were located on La Cienega or 

in Beverly Hills? 

CORITA: I think that's an easy question to answer. I 

think it would have the same atmosphere if the same people 

were in charge. I think it's these two people and their 

helpers who are behind the scenes right now who really make 

the place, rather than the address. I don't think we could 

ever get fancy. [laughter] We can be beautiful, but not 

fancy. 

GALM: At this point, were you represented by any galleries 

in Los Angeles? 

CORITA: Yes. Early on, when I started to make prints, we 

began sending them out to galleries. We usually had about 

twenty-five to thirty galleries that handled the prints 

and would have shows, perhaps once a year, when I would do 

a new set of prints. 

GALM: Did you have any outlet, though, in Los Angeles, 

other than Immaculate Heart? 

CORITA: No. That was its own good outlet. 

GALM: So what were the first duties, then, as far as the 

gallery? You created storage for the prints, but then what? 

DOWNEY: Well, that did take some time and some doing. 

And then Corita--this Plexiglas frame that is so beautiful 



120 



combined with Corita's prints .... We asked Corita if we 
could have some frames to hang, and she said yes, but she 
said she didn't want us to get involved in frames because 
she didn't want us to work too hard. But we chose to get 
involved in frames. And they caused us many headaches, the 
frames. But so we did begin hanging them. And then people 
did keep coming in. And then your big--it was Jack, a 
friend of Corita's, Jack Mullen, who has since died, but he 
was a super swell guy. It was his idea that as long as it's 
going to be a little gallery that Corita should have good 
publicity. He was a PR man for the movies, and he had a 
beautiful spread in the L. A. Times when we decided it would 
be a gallery. We had nobody who knew we were here. That 
was a very, very lovely time. And it had a great deal to 
do, its success, in a sense, with Jack, who had the know-how 
and the gift to--he wanted Corita to have the best. 
GALM: Do you recall the date of that opening, the year, at 
least? 

CORITA: It must have been about '70, I would say. 
DOWNEY: Yes, it was. 
CORITA: In '69 or '70. 

GALM: When you first started using the Plexiglas, was this 
before they became sort of standard sizes, or did you have 
to actually have it custom-made? 
DOWNEY: It was very new then. 



121 



CORITA: And hard, because I'd forget to make things 
standard size. [laughter] 

DOWNEY: We feel she shouldn't be bothered with that limita- 
tion either. 

GALM: So since that time, it is not even a consideration 
when you do a print. 
CORITA: No, no. 

GALM: It's just the design itself that determines the size, 
or ... ? 

CORITA: Yes, it's sort of, I suppose, the way you feel at 
the moment, how you feel about the design, what size it 
should be. 

DOWNEY: Well, and too, people have asked her, if she's done 
little ones, "Oh, why don't you make big ones." She used to 
make really a lot of big ones, the size of this one, A Man 
You Can Lean On . And then she's made little bitty ones, as 
tiny as the ones to the left, there. So in one way, you 
try to accommodate people who ask you; and in another way, 
she does what she feels like. 

GALM: Does it have anything to do with being able to offer 
something that is less expensive than, say, a print of this 
size? 

CORITA: Well, it's not always that the print is more 
expensive if it's bigger. That's not always the case. But 
the frames are always more expensive if they're bigger. So 



122 



that's a big item. Often the frames are more expensive 

than the prints. 

GALM: What type of person comes here to the gallery? Can 

you sort of give a general description? 

DOWNEY: Really, it's varied. Teachers bring their students 

here, elementary on through high school; and students 

themselves, art students from the colleges, come and just 

practically spend a day here. And we have movie actresses 

and TV people, engineers and artists themselves. And there 

are a number of Oriental architects: some come from San 

Francisco, and this is their favorite stop when they come 

down on a business trip here. And Corita's work is admired 

and respected by I think a wide, wide spectrum of old, young, 

poor, rich. It has in a way a very universal appeal, it seems, 

from who comes in here. 

COLLINS: Yes, oh, yes, they do. People who are — they don't 

know very much about art at all. They are not art collectors, 

or they don't know very much about art, but they just like 

this. It's vivid, and it just suits the people. 

DOWNEY: And others are very sophisticated art collectors. 

COLLINS: Oh, yes. 

DOWNEY: So it is a kind of a broad spectrum. 

GALM: Do they want to know a lot about the artist? 

DOWNEY: Oh, yes, yes. It means a lot to them to know about 

Corita. 



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GALM: What was Corita like as a young child, as a member of 
the family, Mary? 

DOWNEY: Well, I'm prejudiced, because I've said she's my 
favorite person. She was delightful. She was the next to 
the youngest. So at this time I'm speaking of, in Canada, 
she was the youngest. So Mother would give her to us, the 
older ones, on vacation. We'd take her off; we'd play in 
the woods up in Canada. And when we'd bring her back, or 
when we'd go back to school. Mother has often said later 
that she couldn't do anything with her because she was so 
spoiled. But she was a little pixie kind of a young girl. 
And then as a girl in high school, when she graduated. 
Mother made her a beautiful white organdy dress; I curled her 
hair for her, and she really was beautiful. We have the 
picture of her — just lovely. And always a lilt about her. 
She had a great group of high school girlfriends, who she 
had such fun with. They had a car--one of the girls had 
a car in those days--and that was pretty racy, to have a 
car with the rumble seat in. They would drive to high school 
in the car, and there would be a standard argument in the 
morning: Mother would want her to wear a sweater, and she 
would not wear a sweater. She was a free spirit, I think. 
GALM: What was the family's reaction to her decision to 
become a nun? 
DOWNEY: Well, you see, our oldest brother — first, our oldest 



124 



sister had already become a nun. And then our brother, who 

was the next in line, was becoming a priest. So I think 

with Mother and Daddy, it was probably in that day they 

were very happy. 

CORITA: A-OK. [laughter] 

DOWNEY: In those days, that was supposed to be the highest, 

the bestest that you could do. 

GALM: How do you arrange your hours here in the gallery, 

Gladys? 

COLLINS: From eleven to four, and we are very free to come 

and go. If we have something else to do for the day, we 

just speak to the other one, and we have another helper, too, 

Evelyn [Neuendorff ] , who comes in on Saturdays. We don't like 

to work on Saturdays, so she works, comes in Saturdays. But 

usually, one of us will take one day off a week sometime to 

do something else that we want to do. And one will come a 

little early, and the other one come later and go home. It's 

very free, very easy. 

GALM: Are you open year-round? 

COLLINS: No, no. 

DOWNEY: Yes, yes. 

GALM: Is the gallery open year-round? 

COLLINS: Oh, the gallery is open year-round, but we are 

not always here, both of us. Mary takes three months 

vacation. [laughter] I take a month, maybe two, a different 



125 



time. I'll take a month at a time. 

DOWNEY: Glady is very faithful to stay. She really does 
carry the whole. We've left her sometimes with a whole 
series of new prints to get out . . . 
COLLINS: . . . and new exhibits. That was one. 
DOWNEY: And new exhibits. And she's carried on, and . . . 
GALM: When did you decide to expand the activities of 
the gallery, or the activities, really, of your art work, 
to include greeting cards and your High Cards? 
CORITA: Well, the high cards were actually the fourth 
book that I did with Harper and Row [ High Cards ] . We 
simply decided not to bind them, not to bind the pages, and 
have them just be cards and printed on the back with 
postcard material. So that was what happened with the High 
Cards. I had already done three little books with them: 
To Believe in God , To Believe in Man , and To Believe in 
Things . And then some of the other cards were done when I 
was staying with Celia Hubbard. I stayed with her when I 
went back to live in Boston for that first year. She 
operated a gallery shop called the Botolph Group. And I 
had some of my prints reproduced for cards and did some 
original cards for them. They were sold from the store, 
and then they also began to distribute them. So that was 
really the beginning. And then another couple picked them 
up. The greeting card company business is very difficult. 



126 



And now I'm going to have them with the American Artist 
Group, so they will take care of the distribution. So 
this is the way things happen. They start in a bungling 
way and eventually get shaped up so they work — or get 
dropped. 

GALM: How often do you come back to North Hollywood and to 
the gallery? 

CORITA: I'm usually back here at least once a year, some- 
times twice. When I have my prints, I have them sent out 
here to sign them. I have a group of prints ready for a 
show the last of this month. And other times when I come 
out, I just have a sense that it's time to come, and then 
things happen around that coming that probably wouldn't 
happen if I weren't here. So it has worked out very well 
that way. And then I go back for a little peace and quiet 
and come back again. 

GALM: How do you arrange the exhibit when you show new 
things? Do you take everything down? Or what do you do? 
CORITA: Well, it depends. I think the present plan is to 
take everything down and start again for this exhibit. We'll 
play around with perhaps having some of the--a very few of 
the older prints because I think people are interested in 
seeing what happened in the beginning, back in the fifties. 
DOWNEY: We did have a fun Never-Never show. 
CORITA: Never-Again. 



127 



DOWNEY: Never-Again show. So many people cooperated, who 

loaned their old, old prints of Corita's. They weren't 

for sale, of course, but people enjoyed that so much because 

many of the people who had come to know Corita in her later 

years had no idea of the quality or the type of her design 

in the early days. And they were so generous, because 

you're always running a risk, as Glady well knows, in 

loaning your precious prints. [laughter] 

GALM: Why does she well know? Why do you well know? 

COLLINS: Well, one sold that was not supposed to have 

been sold. [laughter] 

DOWNEY: Not at our gallery. At a gallery up north. 

GALM: I see. Well, perhaps we could go into the other room 

and look at some of your prints. 

CORITA: Okay. [tape recorder turned off] 

GALM: Well, you've laid out some prints, Corita. 

CORITA: Here we are. 

GALM: Why don't we look at this early one? This is the 

first one, right? [The Lord Is with Thee] 

CORITA: Well, no, it isn't actually the first one. It's 

probably about the third or fourth one. 

GALM: Oh, this isn't the one that you did that summer? 

CORITA: Yes, it is. Underneath is another print which I 

had done that summer, and I had made a couple of prints 

before I took that class and one other print in the class 



128 



before this one. But this was the one I revised into this 

when I got home, after summer school was over. And I think 

it was really this one that started me exhibiting because 

we sent it to the County Museum show and it won the first 

prize, and then we sent it to the State Fair and it won the 

first prize. We sent it here and there, and it would either 

win a first prize or not be accepted in the show. [laughter] 

GALM: So it was an either-or situation. 

CORITA: So those were the days that we learned that you 

didn't base your reputation or your confidence on what the 

jurors said. I think that was a marvelous lesson for me 

and the students, too: that it didn't have anything to 

do with the quality of the print, what the juries said. It 

could be the same print, and some juries would turn it down, 

while others would think it was good. But this did get me 

started on the printing. 

GALM: You have moved so far away from this approach. Is it 

still a favorite, or how do you feel about it? 

CORITA: A lot of the early ones I really can't bear to 

look at, but this is not — not too bad. To me now. 

GALM: What is the quality that you don't like? 

CORITA: Well, I feel that it's extremely derivative. It 

was in my very learning days. It's very Byzantine, and I 

think it doesn't have much of me in it. So it feels awkward 

and searching. 



129 



GALM: Sort of representative of what "religious art" 
(quote-unquote) was doing at that time? 

CORITA: Well, no, it really wasn't, because religious art 
was at that time very sort of late nineteenth-century, but 
a bad nineteenth-century quality, sort of the last unflowering 
of the Renaissance. I went back earlier to try to find 
something that was stronger, and that's what got me into 
the Byzantine era, where at least there was strength and 
beauty. I thought that was a better thing to be working 
from. 

GALM: Were the French doing much in the Byzantine style 
at that time? 
CORITA: Yes, yes. 

GALM: I'm trying to think of the sculptor. 
CORITA: Marvelous sculpture on the cathedrals. 
GALM: No, no. I mean in the nineteen-f if ties. 
CORITA: Oh, in the nineteen-f if ties . I'm trying to ... . 
GALM: Is it [Lambert] Rucki? 

CORITA: The church at Assy was built either in the fifties 
or early sixties, which combined a group of artists to work 
in a single church. Then I think it was [Henri] Matisse's 
chapel [Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence] . Was that in the fifties? 
I think so. And those were .... 

GALM: Now, this is another one from the early period. 
CORITA: That's the same era. And that's beginning to have 



130 



a little something because this was really meant to be a 
picture of the Christ with a home in his hand, as sort of 
a house blessing, and it has the word benedictio , which is 
for blessing. [ Benedictio ] And I tried to do a little 
drawing of the Eames house. So it's sort of the modern 
sneaking in, [laughter] which is in itself an old tradition 
because in the early paintings, if you looked out the window, 
or if you looked down in the left-hand corner, you could 
almost tell what was coming in the next period. I think 
that almost told what was coming in the next period for me. 
GALM: In our other discussions, you mentioned that one of 
the professors at Immaculate Heart had reacted to — I 
believe it was to this work — the fact that it had contained 
words. And this is perhaps what really set you to explore 
further in this direction. 

CORITA: Well, I think, first of all, he was so choice with 
his compliments that it was a rare thing, and I think that 
must have stuck with me, I didn't think — as I think I 
mentioned to you — I didn't think at that time, "Ah, now 
I will do pictures with words in them." But I think that 
was in one. And in the early poster making, I think those 
two things came together in the picture making. 
GALM: That was Doctor , , . 

CORITA: . . . Dr. Schardt. so those were the early days. 
GALM: Then what happened? [laughter] 



131 



CORITA: Then what happened! 

GALM: I'm going to let you just sort of at random pick 
them, and perhaps we can discuss. 

CORITA: All right. This is from about four, five years 
back, perhaps. [I^ Love You Very ] I think I've never lost 
the words, except occasionally I do prints without words. 
But this was when I moved back into the era of great, free 
brushstrokes, which I was doing in the early sixties. This 
is a much older print than that without words. [ Let Him 
Easter in Us] But in between these two came many of the ones 
that had rather commercial letters, which in fact were taken 
from billboards. Let's see if we can find one. I'm trying 
to reach that one that says, "The." These two, yes. In some 
cases they were billboards; in some cases they were words cut 
out of magazines and photographed, and sometimes photographed 
with a curve in them so that when I projected them and made 
the stencils, they seemed to have that kind of movement. And 
there were two pictures, one quite similar to this. The other 
one says, "Who came out of the water?" [ Who Came out of the 
Water ] And this one just says, as you see, "Ha!" [Ha] 
GALM: Now, you were beginning to print on a different type 
of paper, too. 

CORITA: Yes, these are on pellon, which is a 3M product. 
It's actually cloth material, used for clothes lining, like 
men's coats, in tailoring. 



132 



GALM: Now was this something that you discovered, or were 
other printers using it for production? 

CORITA: I don't know that anybody else used it. They were 
using rice paper and similar papers, but this seemed so very 
practical and was much cheaper than the rice paper and much 
stronger. 

GALM: Did it give your serigraphs a different quality? 
CORITA: The paint does look different on them. When you take 
a slicker surface or a harder surface, the paint has a more 
brittle quality — a brighter, sharper quality, whereas these, 
no matter how sharp the line is, the paint has a soft look. 
So there is that difference. This is one [untitled] I did 
for L.A. city, for their celebration of the Bicentennial. 
So it was done in Boston for L.A. This whole pile, right in 
here, are prints that I did as commissions for groups who 
wanted to raise money. This one was for the Chavez people, 
taking one of Cesar Chavez's statements ["He gives us the 
gift of life . . . ."] and making an edition. Sometimes I 
write the edition on and sometimes I don't. [laughter] 
GALM: Did they usually come to you, the people with the 
cause, and say, "Would you do this for us?"? 
CORITA: Yes, yes. Right. And then sometimes — it depends 
on the group. If I feel that it's a group that has no money 
and can't raise any money, then I will do it for them for 
nothing; and if it's a group that can afford to pay, then 



133 



they pay. So it's almost as if they're paying to help the 
other people. And this was a group of prints done for the 
Hunger Walk. [International Walk for Development, May 8-9] 
GALM: Is the dove out of your toy collection or your folk 
art collection? 

CORITA: No, the dove is from my own apartment. It's a 
beautiful wooden dove made by probably a Maine primitive. 
It's a lovely, very roughly hewn wood. I've used it in a new 
print this year because it's just a favorite of mine. 
GALM: Now, from the older ones to, say, the more bold ones, 
is there a difference in technique, or is it just in inter- 
pretation? 

CORITA: Just in interpretation, yes. The technique is the 
same. 

GALM: So that hasn't changed at all. 

CORITA: Well, to a certain extent. Some of these were done 
with a cut paper stencil, and others were done by painting a 
stencil with glue onto the screen. So there can be a rougher 
texture, as in these, and again in the new one. Well, in this 
one, perhaps, but also in the close-up strokes, you can see 
here that this actually was done originally as a painted stroke, 
[Bicentennial Print] And then it was--I now have someone do 
my printing for me. So he takes my small original and blows 
it up, so that it has left a painterly quality to it. But 
that can also be achieved by the brush stencil technique. 



134 



whereas the cut stencil technique comes out sharp and clear 
like that. 

GALM: Do you have any of the--this is not watercolor here, 
is it? 

CORITA: No. 

GALM: Do you have any of the ones that were based on 
watercolor? 

CORITA: Yes, I think we have some in here that are done. 
Maybe, Glady, those two. One is a print, and one is a water- 
color. This is a watercolor [untitled] from which a print 
could be made, except that the shading would not show: they 
would turn out as solid colors. And I'll show you one in 
which — that's right. [ Bird of the Rainbow] Now, this was a 
painting that I had done as a watercolor. And then I had a 
print made from it. And you can see the difference, that the 
gradation of colors is missing. In some cases it gets a little 
heavier because the camera picks up just the very strong things 
and tends to drop out the weaker. So it really becomes differ- 
ent because it's a different medium. But if I feel that it's 
going to work all right, I can use it. And let's see. Now, 
this is one made from a photograph with a screen as you use to 
reproduce photographs and then simply printed with a silk 
screen. [ Growing ] 
GALM: Is it one of your own photographs? 

CORITA: Yes. And this is one of the brushier-looking ones. 
[Rainbow] 



135 



GALM: Let's see, when was that done? About the nineteen- 

seventies or ... ? 

CORITA: This was one of the seventies, I think, yes. 

GALM: Now, you were saying that you've sort of gone out 

of this. This would be in your rainbow series? 

CORITA: That's right. 

GALM: And you sort of moved away from that somewhat? 

CORITA: Yes. In fact the new ones, which I have over here-- 

now, these are the brand-new ones, just four of the set 

which I'll have in the show Sunday. And as you can see-- 

well, the camera can't see, but .... 

GALM: The camera can't see. What are they? 

CORITA: We can see that this [Our Original Nature : shell 

writing #7] is a lavender and a gray, which is very different 

from this, which is the straight rainbow array of colors, the 

very vivid primaries. So these are much subtler in color, 

closer in value. 

GALM: Now are these again making use of photographs? 

CORITA: Yes. These four, and about three or four of the 

other new ones, are done from photographs of shells. In fact, 

this one [Now Is^ Enough : shell writing #8] is done from a 

shell which is about, oh, I would say, three-eighths of an inch 

big, and then just simply blown up, so that it has a rather 

monumental quality. This one [Our Original Nature ] has an 

even more monumental quality, I think. It could be the picture 



136 



of the moon or the world, or some other planet — or, as it 
was, a small shell. That was probably about an inch-large 
shell. And then these two are sections from a shell. [I^ Am 
the Sacred Words of the Earth : shell writing #3; You Are 
Alive : shell writing #4] I don't think that in any of them 
you would know that they were shells, because they're sections 
of them. But I was fascinated by the design on them and 
thought they would make good prints. And I call them shell 
writings. This is my writing; this is the shell writing. 
GALM: I see. How many are in the series? 
CORITA: There are about six or eight, I think. 

GALM: You've always, of course, incorporated your own writing 
on almost every one, haven't you, in some way? 
CORITA: Except for the ones when I was using the magazine 
words or the billboard letters, yes. And then, as in the 
case with the "magical friend," of different kinds of script, 
of printing. [ You Can Never Lose Me ] 

GALM: Why do you like to use your own writing, other than 
it being, of course, the most intimate expression of your- 
self, personal expression? 

CORITA: Well, I really think of the writing as drawing. I 
think I have stayed away from the figurative work lately 
because I think somehow we haven't been able to find a figura 
tive manner that works in our own time. Or at least I can't 
find one that I'm comfortable with. And I feel that letters 



137 



are objects, just like fruit and people and roads and cars; 
so that I'm just drawing the words. 

GALM: Do you ever purposely slow down the viewer, so that 
they will actually read what you've chosen? 

CORITA: Well, this has been one of the nice by-products, I 
think. I don't think I intended it that way in the first 
place because I think when I'm writing the words, I am some- 
what conscious of the legibility. That is, if I know it 
really can't be read, I'll go back and change a word. But if 
it's just slightly difficult, I think that's okay — if it looks 
good. So that those things, I suppose, are of equal concern — 
that it look good, and that it be legible, at least with some 
work. But I don't try to make it difficult. 

GALM: I think there is quite a difference in color, too, in 
your latest ones. 

CORITA: Very different, yes. These are very muted colors. 
And those are very bright. 

GALM: Do you have any from the Vietnam days? 

CORITA: Yes. This one [ Stop the Bombing] was one based on a 
peom written by Gerald Huckaby, with whom I did a book [ City , 
Uncity ] at one time; and again, these are words probably taken 
from a newspaper or magazine and photographed on a curve, with 
the words of the poem written smaller. And then there were a 
couple here, this--the two Berrigans burning the draft cards, 
with the beautiful statement which Thoreau made about--what 



138 



does he say? "Under a government which imprisons unjustly, 
the true place for a just man is also in prison." [ Phil and 
Dan ] And another — this is a kind of interesting print, which 
I just noticed this morning in looking through these. [Love 
at the End ] This section in here, without the little square, 
was a book cover I did for one of Dan Berrigan's books [Love, 
Love at the End ] ; and then later we got the idea, when I was 
working with the people at Botolph, of using just the heart 
and the word as a greeting card. And then this year, I've 
taken that design and blown it up into a serigraph. [ Yes ] 
GALM: I believe that's the one on the front door that we saw. 
CORITA: The one on the front door, right. So it's had an 
interesting history. 

GALM: Talking about the gallery itself, when did you put up 
the sign [the large "Corita" signature] out front? When 
did you have that done? 
CORITA: I think that must be about three years old by now. 



139 



TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE TWO 
APRIL 20, 1976 [video session cont'd] 

GALM: And when was that? Was that used before, somewhere 

else? 

CORITA: No, that was just a plain unused fence. And we 

just took a signature and had a sign painter blow it up. 

GALM: It's very dramatic. 

CORITA: People were having a hard time finding us, for one 

thing. They would get lost in the neighborhood. So we 

thought that would be a help to them to find us. 

GALM: I think it's curious that when we came today--! had 

been here, of course, before--and this morning, when I 

arrived, there was all kinds of graffiti on the walls, on 

the building surrounding the fence, but nothing on the fence 

itself. 

CORITA: Yes, we were grateful for that. 

GALM: Sacred property or something. 

CORITA: Yes. 

GALM: Why don't we look at something from the circus 

series? Do you have something from there, like The Greatest 

Show of Worth? 

CORITA: Yes, we have The Greatest Show . 

GALM: Does that come in two sections? 

CORITA: Yes, in fact these are two letters. It was the 

summer of '68- '69 that I did--maybe if you hold that one. 



140 



I'll hold this one--I did two alphabets, one of them with 

the circus letters and the circus theme. And this was for 

the G and that was for the 0. Put them together, it reads 

"GO." 

GALM: Oh, I see. [laughter] 

CORITA: And they were meant to be used separately, if 

anybody wanted to. I felt they worked as single prints, 

and yet, at the same time, they could be put together and 

used as a big print. And then that same summer, I did the 

International Signal Code flags and worked designs in with 

them. That's the of the Signal Code. [0 m^ God ] 

GALM: How many are in that series? 

CORITA: There are twenty-seven. I think there are more, 

because they have other words that they have, but I just 

did the twenty-seven. And then these worked into the circus 

book. We just simply reproduced them into the book that Holt 

published [ Damn Everything but the Circus ] . 

GALM: Is the Love series one of the more popular prints 

that you've done? 

CORITA: Well, I think Love is always a very popular .... 

GALM: Or don't you even think of one being more popular 

than the other? 

CORITA: Or one being more loved than the other, yes. 

GATiM: Okay. Why don't we sit down and talk about a few 

other things surrounding your life, or as part of your life? 



141 



This interview, of course, is being done as part of the 
series that we're doing at UCLA on the Los Angeles art 
community. And you've mentioned some of the individuals. 
You've mentioned Charles Eames and the role that he played 
in your life and really within the art department as a 
visitor at Immaculate Heart. Were there any other artists 
in the Los Angeles area that you knew well? 

CORITA: It's hard for me to distinguish, because the first 
person who came to my mind was Buckminster Fuller. I think 
we were never too choosy about whether people were artists 
or just people with ideas. So we kind of sought out the 
people with ideas and principles and made our association 
with them, rather than just finding artists. 
GALM: Did you interact at all with, say, other art depart- 
ments in the area, or wasn't it really necessary? 
CORITA: No, we really didn't. We would try to. We would 
take the students out to different exhibits and galleries. 
And of course many, many times, we'd go to UCLA or USC for 
shows, because they put on some very good shows. But outside 
of that, we didn't really work with any other art departments. 
GALM: Was there an art community? 
CORITA: A student art community? 

GALM: No, no. A practicing artist that you really . . . ? 
CORITA: Well, in the fifties, when I first started exhibiting 
prints, we met a lot of the printmakers who were in the same 



142 



shows. We traded prints and got to know some of them. I'm 

trying to think and see if I can remember some of the names. 

They don't come to me now. But we were associated more 

with printmakers, I think, than with painters. 

GALM: Were there any particular galleries that you followed 

religiously, their shows? 

CORITA: Well, of course, when La Cienega started, we 

found that, and the County Museum was always a favorite. 

I'm trying to think of the name of the gallery out on 

Sunset, which was really the first gallery that brought the 

New York work to L.A. quickly. I don't remember the name of 

that. 

GALM: I don't think it's the Ferus gallery, is it? That 

would be later; that was on La Cienega. 

CORITA: Was that on La Cienega? Was it originally on 

Sunset? 

GALM: Possibly. 

CORITA: Yes, it could have been, could have been. 

GALM: Well, in our other interviews, we sort of brought you 

up to the point at which you left for Boston, but we really 

never talked too much about your decision to leave. How did 

the decision within the community itself to form a lay 

community affect your decision? 

CORITA: Well, actually that decision was made after I left. 

GALM: So that didn't apply at all. 



143 



CORITA: By about two years. No. 

GALM: Did you participate at all in the general chapter of 

[the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary]? 

CORITA: Yes, yes. I was at the chapters the two summers 

before I left, in which the changes certainly began. I 

suppose those were really the two important ones which were 

the turning point of the community. 

GALM: Were you one of the delegates, then? 

CORITA: Yes, yes. 

GALM: At that point, when you established, as a result of 

the chapters — are they called decrees of renewal? 

CORITA: Yes. 

GALM: Did you feel that it would run into the problems that 

they eventually did? 

CORITA: Well, I think that it was a funny situation, a 

rather unique situation, because I think we were used to 

being in trouble, you know, in many ways. I think especially 

in the art department we were, both because some of the 

alumni who were more conservative and were nervous about 

any kind of change were nervous about us as we changed-- 

and I think, as long as we kept alive, we keep changing--and 

then [also because] the community at large, I think, was 

somewhat nervous because the I.H.M.'s were doing things that 

they thought hadn't been done before. Actually, I think 

many of the things that the I.H. community was doing had 

already been done by other communities in the East or in the 



144 



Midwest. But it depends so much on the attitude of the 
hierarchy in the different areas. If the top man is a 
progressive person, then the changes come much more gradually 
and gently. But in the Los Angeles situation, there was 
an extreme rigidity on the part of the hierarchy. So 
that what should have been very normal growing — organic 
changes were not allowed to be organic because everything 
that changed created such a big sensation that it blew it 
out of proportion. So that that was unfortunate, especially 
for the people outside the community who didn't quite under- 
stand what all the fuss was about, or why we made such a 
big fuss — for example, why we were so insistent about 
changing the habit or not wearing the habit, whereas that 
didn't seem a very big thing to them (they thought we should 
just continue wearing it) . But we began to feel that it was 
a long overdue change, and that this separated us from the 
people we were working with, and that it also had something 
to do in sort of allowing the people in the community to 
be individuals. Like any kind of uniform, it had serious 
drawbacks. And I think as we became more and more alerted 
to the drawbacks, we thought it was normal to change. But 
the people who were more conservative — I think they often 
feel that one little change is going to lead to many others 
(and they're certainly right). I think that's why they're 
so frightened by little changes. 



145 



GALM: Where did they really feel that you were going? 
What was the real danger that they saw, or was it an 
unknown danger? 

CORITA: Well, I think it was the unknown, largely, because 
the nuns had always looked like this. And I think that 
one of the very serious reasons for our being so insistent 
on the habit was that people, for the most part, or many 
people — I'm not talking about the people who are able to 
carry themselves--but many people sort of had their religion 
in us. And when we changed, it was almost as if their 
religion was changing. Which is a very sad commentary on 
their religion, you know, if the mode of dress — which, 
as we know, has always changed through the centuries — 
would mean that much to them, would become that big an 
issue. It was really a nonissue. 

GALM: Yes. Did Immaculate Heart lose much support from 
its alumni as a result of the change? 

CORITA: I don't know. We've never had, especially in the 
past, much financial support from the alumni, mostly because 
the people who went to school were not that wealthy or 
their husbands graduated from other schools, which made it 
difficult. [laughter] But I think the alumni support has 
increased within the last few years. 

GALM: Was the community surprised by the action that Rome 
took on the decrees? 



146 



CORITA: I think by the time they were actually out, we 

knew there would be difficulty. We had hopes that they 

would see what was happening as an organic movement. And 

I think, perhaps again, if we had had a different hierarchy, 

Rome might have heard a different story. 

GALM: But you, of course, had anticipated that you wouldn't 

be getting strong support. 

CORITA: Or strong approval. We never expected strong 

support. 

GALM: From the local hierarchy. But possibly that Rome 

might go along with you? 

CORITA: Yes. 

GALM: Well, I know that in one of the issues of the alumni 

news [Alumnae on the Move, Spring 1968] , there was an 

article which really explained the community's position. 

And the position that it seemed to delineate was that a 

nun was also a woman. ["We'll Admit It: A Nun Is a Woman"] 

CORITA: Right. 

GALM: When did that start opening up within the community, 

the sort of almost a tie-in with the feminist movement, but 

probably at a different level? 

CORITA: Well, I think in history, there comes a time for 

things, and then they pop up in different areas, without 

the different areas being aware that the other is doing the 

same things. And I think that this was one of those cases 



147 



where the time had come when people were beginning to 

pay much more attention to the fact of individuality. Of 

course, the rules of the communities were written by men 

originally, and they had been followed for so many centuries. 

And I think the longer things aren't done, the harder it is 

to change them. So I think a great many of us went along 

being very concerned with the work we were doing, teaching 

and so forth, and were not as concerned with ourselves as 

people until we began to realize, along with everybody 

else, that what happened to the individual is largely what 

happens to the community; and that if the individual is 

developed to her fullest extent, that can only be good for 

the other people that she's working with or for. But I 

think that's a new concept — say, since Jung and Freud and 

the people who first began to see that individual problems 

meant that the people were individual. 

GALM: It must have been a difficult decision to make — to 

leave. 

CORITA: For me to leave? 

GALM: The community. Or again, was it maybe a decision 

that made itself? 

CORITA: Well, in a way, I suppose when I left that summer, 

it was only for the summer. And then when I got back East 

and was all quiet and peaceful, it just seemed that it wasn't 

possible to go back. So in a sense, I made the decision 



148 



after I had gotten out, or after I had gone away. And I 
think the decision was then made in the years that followed, 
rather than the years that preceded, with a lot of the 
thinking. Because I had never thought of leaving up till 
that point, so I wasn't having any difficulty with the 
thought. But after I left, I looked back. And I've never 
had any regrets about leaving, even though there have 
been difficulties. 

GALM: What have been some of those difficulties? 
CORITA: Well, I think the idea of living alone for the 
first time in my life. I'd grown up in a big family and 
had always been with a large group of people. Of course, 
in the community there were 500 or 600. And in the house I 
lived for about fifteen years, there were about 110 people. 
So I was accustomed to having a lot of stimulating people 
around me. 

GALM: Are there new joys that come with it? 
CORITA: Certainly. 
GALM: What are those? 

CORITA: Well, I think a calmer life, and a chance for more 
inner development, which I think is not only different 
but also normal for a person. As you know, as you finish 
the extreme active part of your life, the part that is out- 
ward, you tend then to want to develop what hasn't had a 
chance yet. And I think I'm having that chance to develop 



149 



more inwardly than I had before, 



150 



INDEX 



Adler, Mortimer 

American Artist Group 

American Institute of Architects 

Andrews, Michael 

Arts and Architecture (periodical) 

Avery, Milton 



B 



Berrigan, Daniel 

The Raft Is Not the Shore 
Berrigan, Philip 

Blessed Sacrament School, Los Angeles 
Bloome, Mark C, Tire Company 
Boston Tea Party discotheque 
Boston University 
Botolph Group, Inc. 
Botolph Group Gallery 
Burnett, Hobart 



9-10 

127 

60 

25 

38, 

44 



59 



68-72, 92, 104, 

138-139 

70 

71-72, 138-139 

3 

89 

104-105 

65 

102-105, 

103-104 

40 



126, 139 



California State Fair, Sacramento 

Carpenter, Eleanor 

Carrig, Carol 

Carroll, Lewis 

Catholic Girls High School 

see Conaty High School 
Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence, France 
Chavez, Cesar 
Chouinard Art Institute 
Claremont Colleges 
Collins, Gladys 
Collins, Judy 

Conaty High School, Los Angeles 
Container Corporation of America 
Continuum (periodical) 
Corita Prints gallery 

Never-Again show 
Cox, Harvey 



23, 129 

41 

77 

93 



130 

133 

18 

8, 39, 106 

112-128 

104 

3, 5, 14 

82 

107-108 

42, 112-150 

128 

104 



151 



Dietrich, Marlene 
Downey, Frank 
Downey, Mary Kent 



24 

112, 117-118 

48-49, 66, 112-128 



Eames, Charles 



Textiles and Ornainental Arts 
of India 

Two Baroque Churches in Germany 
Eames, Ray 
Eisenstein, Sam 
Elliott, Jim 
Entenza, John 



7, 10-11, 24, 36, 
37-39, 54, 58-59, 
131, 142 
54 

10-11 
40 

109-110 
61, 64 
38 



Feininger, Lyonel 
Ferus Gallery 
Fortune (periodical) 
Fuller, Buckminster 
Fullerton College 



7 

143 

81 

24, 

79 



142 



Girard, Alexander 
Glascock, Baylis 
Goodall, Don 
Gottlieb, Adolph 
Group W 

see Westinghouse Broadcasting 
Company 
Gusten, Theodore 
Gutheim, Fritz 



54 
31 

26-28 
27 



28 
59-60 



H 



Hallmark Cards, Inc. 

Hambly, Harry 

Hanh, Thich Nhat 

Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. 

Harvard University 

Heinz ketchup 

Herder and Herder 

Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc 



62, 87 

42-43 

70 

126 

100-101 

109 

108 

141 



152 



Hubbard, Celia 
Huckaby, Gerald 
City , Uncity 



99-100, 

138 

138 



102-104, 126 



Immaculate Heart College 



Alumnae on the Move (periodical) 
Great Men series 
Mary ' s Day 

"Survival with Syle" exhibit 

International Business Machines 

International Graphic Arts Society 

International Walk for Development 



4, 7-13, 18-21, 

23-26, 29-44, 50-58, 

60-63, 67-75, 81, 

85, 87-89, 92-103, 

105-107, 110-112, 

114-118, 120, 131, 

142-149 

147 

24-25 

30-36, 45, 

68, 

65 

ae, 

28 
134 



60, 62, 
76, 109, 116-117 

44, 72-75 



Jimenez, Juan 
John XXIII (pope) 

K 

Kandinski, Vasili 

Kelley, Helen 

Kennedy, John 

Kent, Bridget (grandmother) 

Kent, Edith Sanders 

Kent, Mark 

Kent, Mary 

see Downey, Mary Kent 
Kent, Richard (brother) 
Kent, Richard (grandfather) 
Kent, Robert Vincent 
Kent, Sister Ruth 
Klee, Paul 



49-50 
74, 79 



30-31, 34, 100 

79 

2 

1-2, ^. , 6, 49-50, 124 

15, 48-49, 66, 125 



49 

2 

1-2, 4-6, 125 

16-17, 49, 125 

7 



Laliberte, Norman 
Laporte, Paul 
Lavanoux, Maurice 
Lewis, David 



47, 76, 80 
7-8, 50-51 
46-47 
80, 82 



153 



Liturgical Arts (periodical) 46, 47 

Los Angeles City College 109 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art 22, 29, 60-61 

63-64, 129 

Los Angeles Times (newspaper) 121 

M 

McGannon, Donald 80 

McGowan, Paula 73-74 

Mclntyre, James Francis Cardinal 34, 145-147 

McPartlin, Sister Regina 112 

Magdalen Mary, Sister 18-21, 24, 41 

Martinez, Alfredo 25 

Martinez, Mrs. Alfredo 25-26 

Matisse, Henri 130 

Mead, Margaret 97 

Merton, Thomas 7 

Seven Story Mountain 70 

Merton, Thomas, Center, New York 7 

Michelangelo 31 

Pieta 80 
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. 132 

Monahan, Robert 75 

Mother of Good Counsel School, 77 

Los Angeles 

Motherwell, Robert 27 

Mullen, Jack 121 

Museum of Modern Art 23, 54 

Myers, Michaela 73-74 

N 

National Art Education Association 56-58, 65 

National Gallery of Art 59-60, 63-64 

Neuendorff, Evelyn 125 

Neutra, Richard 39 

Newsweek (periodical) 81 

New York V7orld's Fair, 1964 47-48, 76-80 

Vatican Pavilion 47-48, 76-80 

Noemi, Sister 4 

O 

Oberstein, Martin 14 

Otis Art Institute 3 

Ottobeuren, Germany 10-11 



154 



Pasadena Art Museum 29 

Pew, Mary Jean 68 

Pintauro, Joe 108-109 



Renaissance Pleasure Faire 33 

Rilke, Rainer Maria 44 

Rothko, Mark 28 

Rucki, Lambert 130 



Saanich Indian School 16-17 

Sacramento State Fair 23, 129 

Sacred Heart Elementary School, 16-17 

British Columbia 

Sanders, Adeline 1-3 

Sanders, Herman 1-3 

Schardt, Alois 7-13, 131 

Schindler, Rudolph 39 

Seeger, Pete 65 

Shahn, Ben 28-29, 44 

Sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary 144-148 

see also Immaculate Heart College 

Statler Hilton Hotel, Los Angeles 57-53 

Sternberg, Josef von 24 



Taylor, John 65 

Thomson, Virgil 24 

Thoreau, Henry David 138 

Time (periodical) 81 

U 

Unamuno, Miguel de 4 9 

United Church 79 

United Farm Workers of America 133 

Univeristy of California, Berkeley 75 

University of California, Los Angeles 4, 18, 20, 142 

University of Southern California 8, 12, 18, 20, 22, 

25-27, 142 



155 



Vierzen-Heiligen, Germany 10-11 

Villicich, Donna 65 

Vinci, Leonardo da 31 

W 

Watts Towers 59 

"We'll Admit It: A Nun Is a Woman" 147 

(article. Alumnae on the Move ) 

Westinghouse Broadcasting Company 80-84, 86 

The Corita Collection 81 

Winterfest, Boston 83 

Woodbury University 18 

World Council of Churches 65-67, 73 

World's Fair, 1964, New York 47-48, 76-80 



Yale University 86 

Yates, Peter 24 



156 



INDEX OF CORITA KENT WORKS 



A Man You Can Lean On 122 

Benedictio 12-13, 131 

Bicentennial print (untitled) 133, 134 

Bird of the Rainbow 135 

Christ and Mary 47 

City , Uncity (book) 138 

Corita Collection , The ; An Ex pression 81 
of Broadcasting Philosophy 
(portfolio, Westinghouse) 

Damn Everything but the Circus 141 

Footnotes and Headlines (book) 108 

Go Slow 91-92 

Greatest Show of Worth , The series 140-141 

Growing 135 

Ha 132 

Heart of the City 49-50 

He Gives Us the Gift of Life 133 

High Cards (book) 126 

I Am the Sacred Words of the Earth 137 
(shell writing #3) 

I. Love You Very 132 

In 92, 93-94 

International Signal Code series 141 

International Walk for Development 134 
series 



157 



Let Him Easter in Us 132 

Lord Is with Thee, Thf 22-23, 40, 128-130 

Love series 141 

Love at the End 139 

Luke 91-92 

Now Is Enough (shell writing #8) 136 

my God 141 

Our Original Nature (shell writing #7) 136-137 

Phil and Dan 139 

Rainbow 135 

Shell writing series 136-137 

Stop the Bombing 138 

Tiger 91-93 

To-Believe-In series (books) 108-109 

To Believe in God (book) 109, 126 

To Believe in Man (book) 109, 126 

To Believe in Things (book) 109, 126 

Tomato 109-111 

Who Came out of the Water 132 

Wonderbread 5 

Yellow Spring 50 

Yes 139 

You Are Alive (shell writing #4) 137 

You Can Never Lose Me 137 



158 



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