Corita Kent, Why “Long/ Live/ the…” and More

eleven east cafe glassboro NJ

My first year as an undergrad was spent at a college in Glassboro, a medium-sized suburban New Jersey town. A city boy at heart, my new friends and I spent most of our time in the town’s sole independent coffee shop and book store: eleven east café and evergreen books, respectively.

It was in that bookstore that I found this:

to-believe-in-things

A book of poetry, sort of—written by playwright Joseph Pintauro and illustrated by sister Corita Kent. It was full of that trademark 1970s whimsy and innocence. One of the poetic devices used in the book is the repetition of “Long live the…”

Long Live the Thing by Joseph Pintauro and Sister Corita Kent

Long Live the Thing by Joseph Pintauro and Sister Corita Kent

The book is a celebration of life. It documents simple joys and observations:

Long live chickens
who run free
who lay their eggs
in dark
places around
the world where no man
sees.

This book seemed (and still seems) like a magic secret gift that random chance and serendipity gave to me. It spoke to me in a deep way when I first found them over ten years ago; it found me at the right moment in my life. It also speaks to why independent book stores remain so important, even though evergreen books shut down long ago. There are some experiences for which you cannot search.

I think this quotation from a 2012 PBS interview with art historian Kathryn Wat neatly summarizes the allure of Corita’s work, and it applies to her collaboration with Mr. Pintauro, too:

We feel that we’re living in dark times. And we look at this work and we see someone who was creating super-cool art, that’s very hip, but that is filled with a sincere spirit. And I think that’s appealing to all of us.

And now there’s a traveling exhibition featuring the work of Corita Kent {npr}. It opens at the Warhol museum at the end of this month.