“Wedding Blessing” by Corita Kent

Close Looks: "Wedding Blessing" by Corita Kent

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Audio Description of Wedding Blessing by Corita Kent
The artwork is screen-printed on beige paper in layered splotches of vibrant colors. The nineteen by twenty-four-inch sheet appears to illustrate a colorful urn with text filling its undulating curves. Vivid colors and amorphous shapes, printed in successive layers on top of each other, make up a composition that is abstract and open to interpretation. The background is mostly light blue with green accents vaguely resembling a map. Printed on top of this green and blue landscape-like layer and at the very center of the horizontal axis of the composition is the urn-like shape in a warm pinkish tone that looks somewhat like the bust of a woman or a silhouetted figure. This same pink color, printed on top of the blue background creates oval-like streaks of cool-toned lavender, which overlap with the pink, central figure. Sprouting from the bust form are strands of lines with flower-like bubbles hanging off the ends. These connecting cavern-like shapes are beige, revealing the color of the paper without pigments.

The texture of the artwork is even and flat, making the words of a biblical verse, printed in dark navy over the colors, stand out. Drawing our initial focus is the word “GOD” in the upper center. The text in full reads “The GOD / of Abrahaham / of Jacob / of Isaac / Be with / you and / fulfill his blessing in you / so that you may see your / children’s children to the / third and 4th generation / and thereafter / Life everlasting life without end / by the help of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There are only a few words per line creating eight lines in total, which mostly fit within the pink urn shape with the exception of the words “by the help of our” extending into a bulbous bubble on the bottom left corner of the canvas and the words “without end” extending out into the blue background toward in the lower right. A second textual passage that reads “Who / is god / living and reigning / with the / Father / and the Holy / Ghost / forever / amen” appears more faintly on the right side of the print. Its color is only slightly darker than the sky-blue background on which it sits.

Neither the size nor style of the hand-written lettering is uniform. Capitalization varies, even across the same word. Some letters with circular shapes are filled in, others are not. Letters in the same word are sometimes twice as big as others, thus drawing attention to a few specific terms such as “God.” In addition to legible letters, there are triangle symbols with a dot at the center integrated into the text.

I see — most centrally — a wedding blessing adapted from the Book of Tobit, a Catholic scripture. It may be an Anglican prayer given the background text that uses “Holy Ghost.”

The text is set on what appears to be the abstract representation of a tree. It is imprinted on a warm-color region that may represent a tree-trunk. I see splotches all around it that seem to take the shape of fan-shaped or gingko leaves. There are much larger, complex green areas radiating out from above it. I presume that these collectively represent a family or genealogical tree, echoing the blessing’s promise that the couple “see” their “children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” The words “Lord Jesus Christ” sit over the wide, fanning base of the tree, almost as if to evoke the notion that Jesus Christ is the foundation of this newly planted family.

Across the tree are three, large cooler-color splotches. It is possible that these represent the three persons of the Holy Trinity, invoked in the prayer. The word “God” seems written across one.

Hugo Mendez, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

Corita, American, 1918-1986, Wedding Blessing, 1957, color screenprint on paper, sheet: 19 × 24 in. (48.3 × 61 cm). Ackland Art Museum, In memory of Brian Thomas Chase 1948-1985 husband of Junanita Louise Chase, and brother of Richard Wesley Chase, 2020.5.1.

This screenprint seems to focus on an abstract central figure, a figure that seems to represent an amorphous human being, with other possible figures in the background and emanations coming from the central figure like thoughts or prayers or progeny. Over the central figure is text that takes the form of a prayer that echoes many passages in the Bible, asking that the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac bless the person addressed with numerous offspring and life everlasting through the help of Lord Jesus Christ. The word “God” is the largest and centered word, where my eye first falls, with the words “be with you” and “life everlasting” and “Lord Jesus Christ” dominating and grounding the rest of the central text.

This prayer then appears to flow beyond the central figure into the air to the right side of the print, with an affirmation that Jesus is god living and reigning with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever, and a concluding, small, faint amen in the lower right-hand corner.


The colors of the print are muted pastels, giving a sense of many indeterminate figures in some kind of expanse or in motion. Since the title of the painting is Wedding Blessing, it seems that the print is offering an affirmation of the place of offspring in the human family, a recognition of children as a prime blessing of marriage, and a means of interlocking various human generations into a spiritual whole.

The figures all seem porous, with ambiguity in how the words fall over the figures, who is speaking and who is being addressed, no firm boundaries separating one figure from another. The figures and colors overlap and intertwine. All that would seem to reinforce the general message of the words of the prayer: human lives entangle and proliferate in a broader organic and spiritual union.

Randall Styers, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill

Being a priest, I am first struck by the words and connecting them with the title of the piece. The blessing itself is one I have not heard before. The idea of seeing future generations also speaks to long life together, and longevity is a subtle theme of wedding ceremonies. The opening and closing of the blessing are strange to me when coupled in this way. The opening is very Jewish in nature — naming Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob echoes the covenant, so foundational in Hebrew scriptures. But then closing with Jesus

moves it in a Christian direction. The painting has a botanical feel with outlines of stems and flowers appearing to me. I am wondering about the shape that the words inhabit. It does not feel like a human form, more of a vessel, or, perhaps, two people entwined somehow due to the marital nature of the title?

Reverend Betsy Carmody, Head Chaplain at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA

I am getting married in October 2021, so this piece evokes an emotional response based off the title alone. To me, weddings can be the start of a new life.

At first glance, the abstract piece strikes me as a map of an unknown land with blue water surrounding it on three sides. The central shape, which is dusty rose, is connected to several smaller circular shapes, which are mostly green. The central shape is also slightly anthropomorphic.

The primary text appears to be handwritten in black ink, and important words are enlarged – “God,” “Be with you,” and “Lord Jesus Christ.” I spy some additional text in blue on the right side of the work, and it includes one of my favorite questions – “Who is God.” God to me is much more than one person – God is nature, God is laughter, God is happy coincidences, but most importantly

God is love and family. After a few minutes, I realize that “who is God…” continues the Wedding Blessing. The artist’s style keeps your eye moving and is playful. The handwritten text is jarringly personal compared to illustrated biblical manuscripts or printed church programs.

This piece suggests continuity and longevity, both through the family bloodline and faith. It reminds me of how my childhood Baptist church would close each Sunday service by singing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.” I always found that phrase to be stuffy and feel much more warmth from this blessing’s presentation – the shapes, colors, and lettering engage the viewer’s heart.”

Lindsey Hale, Public Programs Coordinator at the Ackland Art Museum

  • The use of text became a signature feature of Corita Kent’s (often known solely as “Corita”) work in the 1960s. In 1957, when Wedding Blessing was created, she was just starting to incorporate text into her prints. Where do you see her experimentation with text? How is she using words in her overall composition? How does the text affect your understanding of the work’s meaning?
  • Corita used screen printing as the medium for most of her work and experimented with innovative coloring techniques. Can you reconstruct how this print was made based on the colors you see? How does the artist’s medium and process affect the meaning of Wedding Blessing?
  • Corita was an artist, educator, and advocate for social justice. In the 1960s, her work became increasingly political and posed questions regarding poverty, racism, and injustice. In light of Corita’s advocacy for marginalized groups, what qualities of this work, though it dates from an earlier period, might be connected to the artist’s interests in social justice?
  • Corita was an artist, educator, and advocate for social justice. In the 1960s, her work became increasingly political and posed questions regarding poverty, racism, and injustice. In light of Corita’s advocacy for marginalized groups, what qualities of this work, though it dates from an earlier period, might be connected to the artist’s interests in social justice? 
  • Corita was a Catholic nun in the order “Immaculate Heart of Mary” from 1936, when she was 18, to 1968. She also taught and became head of the art department at Immaculate Heart College. Her work began as figurative and religious and eventually integrated literature, popular song lyrics, biblical verses, and advertising images and slogans. Wedding Blessing, along with many of her other works from her time in the convent, incorporates religious themes. How does the religious text affect the meaning of the print, both its features and its title? Would the meaning be different if the text did not have a religious theme?
  • Watch this video and read this article on serigraphy, the artist’s primary medium.
  • Listen to a brief radio story about Corita’s historical impact and the events that inspired her work. (A transcript of the audio is also available).

About the Art


  • Wedding Blessing, along with several other of Corita Kent’s early artworks, drew from Gothic and Byzantine sources but also reflected the influence of artists such as Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko of the Abstract Expressionist movement that began in New York City following WWII.
  • The medium used for this artwork, screenprinting, is a process in which ink is forced through a mesh screen onto a surface. A printing screen consists of a fine mesh fabric that is attached to a wooden frame. Traditionally these screens were made of silk. Corita started screenprinting while she attended graduate school at the University of Southern California. For her screenprints, like Wedding Blessing, Kent would sometimes use as many as twenty screens which helped to layer the color onto the artwork.
  • Around 1955, Corita started to mix various texts in her compositions like other pop artists of the period. Before that, she had grown to enjoy calligraphy. In Wedding Blessing, she physically altered the text itself, bending, inverting, and truncating slogans, logos, and phrases to play with viewers’ expectations and jolt them into engaging with the words. Corita’s inclusion of text in her own handwriting made her work much more personal than most forms of pop art that also used slogans and logos.
  • The text written across the artwork is compiled from several Bible verses including Exodus 3:6, Matthew 22:32, Deuteronomy 5:9, and Isaiah 45:17, which reflects Corita’s identity as a Catholic nun in the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
  • Wedding Blessing has a striking resemblance to another of Corita’s works, Seven Swords, also produced in 1957. The works share the same general inner and outer silhouettes, but Wedding Blessing utilizes text in contrast to the other work’s heavy use of images.

About the Artist

1918: Born in Fort Dodge, Iowa as Frances Elizabeth Kent
1923: Family moves to Hollywood, California
1936: Entered Immaculate Heart College, a private, Catholic college located in Los Angeles, California and joins the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), taking the name Sister Mary Corita
1941: Graduates from Immaculate Heart College
1951: Completes a Master of Arts degree at the University of Southern California in art history
1962: Corita sees Andy Warhol’s Soup Can exhibition, one of the first inspirations for her pop prints
1964: Kent became the head of the Art Department at Immaculate Heart College
1966: Named one of nine “Women of the Year” by The Los Angeles Times
1967: Featured on the cover of the Christmas issue of Newsweek magazine
1968: Decides to leave the IHM Order and seeks a dispensation of her vows
1970: Moves to Boston, Massachusetts
1971: Creates a design for the Boston Gas Company, now known as the largest copyrighted piece of art in the world
1980: A major retrospective of Kent’s work is mounted at the deCordova Museum in Massachusetts
1986: Died in Watertown, Massachusetts
Created by:
Joseph Buckner, Jane Durden, Joel Funderburk, Riley Goldstone, Richie Gray, Allison Hodge, Lillian Hurban, Shawn Khandia, Aaron Lee, Sam Linker, Madyson Long, Trace Mccall, Maisy Miller, Angie Ramos-Tax, Clay Schrum, Yasmin Shemer, Dawson Smith, Linglu Xu

Edited by:
Julianne Miao and Maggie Cao