Artist Corita Kent, Creator of ‘LOVE’ Stamp, Dies at 67

Times Staff Writer

Artist Corita Kent, the former Los Angeles nun whose colorful works include the immensely popular “LOVE” postage stamp, died in her Boston home Thursday after a six-month battle against cancer. She was 67.

As with the stamp design, her art often carried--literally as well as symbolically--messages of hope, optimism and peace. Her works are displayed in about 40 museums worldwide.

Working in various media, she was delighted that her art was exposed to the masses in easily accessible ways--on billboards, book jackets, illustrations, posters, T-shirts, even on a huge natural gas tank in her adopted hometown of Boston.


Miss Kent, a nun with the Sister of the Order of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles for 32 years, gave up her Roman Catholic sisterhood in 1968 to re-enter the secular world. She had spent many of her years at Immaculate Heart College as head of the art department.

By the time she left the order, she was famous in both the art world and in the ecumenical church movement.

“My reasons are very personal and very hard to explain,” she said in an interview at the time. “It seems the right thing for me to do now. I think I’ve kind of reached the point where I want to do a different thing.”

Then on sabbatical leave in Boston, she made that city her home but returned often to Los Angeles.

It was in Boston in 1971 that Miss Kent created what is said to be the largest copyrighted design in the world--a painting on the side of the Boston Gas Co.’s huge natural gas tank. The enormous rainbow--six simple strokes of color arching across the 150-foot-high gas tank--has been one of Boston’s most famous landmarks ever since.

And the equally simple “LOVE” design became an immediate best-seller as a stamp, with more than 700 million issued at last count. On New Year’s Eve, 1984, when a 20-foot replica of the design was lowered from the Old Post Office in Washington, a crowd of 65,000 cheered and applauded.


Although she wanted her work and message to be seen as widely as possible and did not object to what some artists would consider “commercialization” of her creations, she was highly principled about how it was used and how it was promoted.

She boycotted the official ceremony celebrating the issuance of her 22-cent stamp in April, 1985, because the government held the event on board the “Love Boat” television show set in Burbank.

She said at the time that she didn’t approve of the “Love Boat” show because “the TV definition of love is nothing very deep, and everything gets resolved in an hour. I think it’s dangerous to educate people that way--that love happens that fast, that troubles are resolved that easily.”

Miss Kent is survived by a sister, Sister Mary Ruth, and a brother, Mark Kent of Seattle.