Celebrated pop artist’s exhibition opens with gallery talk at Thiel College

GREENVILLE, Pa.—Thiel College will present a series of restored silkscreen productions from its private collection of pop artist and activist Corita Kent in the Weyers-Sampson Gallery of the Howard Miller Student Center from Feb. 28 to March 29.

The exhibition launches with a gallery talk at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 in the Sawhill-Georgian Room of the Howard Miller Student Center.

The exhibition is the culmination of a 10-week research and restoration project by two Thiel College professors and a student. Professor of Art and Curator of Art Sean McConnor, Assistant Professor of History Sheila Nowinski, Ph.D., and student Isabella Bungo ’19 restored damaged paintings and frames and conducted historical research about Kent’s life and professional endeavors. Bungo, of Pittsburgh, is a history major with a secondary education certification. She is a 2015 graduate of Fox Chapel High School. During the summer of 2018, the group restored and conducted historical research on Kent’s classroom artwork and pedagogy. The prints on display come from Kent’s time teaching at the Immaculate Heart College and embody a rich blend of poetry, biblical verses, and quotations.

“Corita Kent is best known for her bold and colorful pop art serigraphs or silkscreen prints incorporating poetry, Biblical verse, and quotations. Kent engaged with the most pressing issues of her time: civil rights, poverty, war, and peace. Audiences still connect with her pieces, which are at once personal, spiritual, and political,” Nowinski said. “Born Elizabeth Frances Kent, she adopted the name Sister Mary Corita when she joined the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1936. Sister Corita became famous for her pop art-inspired prints and her progressive educational methods. Her adoption of modern art styles and support for the anti-war movement drew scrutiny from the Archbishop of Los Angeles. In 1968, Kent surrendered her vows to pursue a fulltime art career.”

Funded by a grant from the Greenville Neuromodulation Center Faculty/Student Research Institute, Bungo and McConnor used various techniques to remove dirt, repair torn edges and flatten the prints. The prints were photographed and documented before and after their treatments. The pair also contacted the Intermuseum Conservation Association to aid in restoring two heavily damaged prints. Nowinski and Bungo spent three days researching Kent’s archived papers at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. The papers were written during the same time the prints in Thiel’s collection were produced.

The Weyers-Sampson Gallery will be open during the spring semester on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., and 2-4 p.m.; on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1-4 p.m.; on Fridays from 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. or by appointment. The gallery will be closed during spring recess from March 2–10.

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Thiel College is a private liberal arts institution founded in the Lutheran tradition. Located in Greenville, Pa., the College offers 60 majors and minors, 25 varsity sports, and a 10:1 student-faculty ratio to more than 900 students. A dedicated faculty paired with dynamic research and internship opportunities produce numerous graduate school and job placements. Coeducational from its beginnings, the College remains committed to combining tradition with innovation as it celebrates 150 years.