Damn Everything but the Circus

The book from the Special Collections visit that I chose to talk about is Damn everything but the Circus: a lot of things put together. This book was published in 1970 by Sister Corita. When trying to decide which book I wanted to start with, this was the first one to catch my eye. I had never seen the book before. As I was walking around the room looking at the others before I got to this one, many of them looked way older than others. This book looked the closest to the modern day books that we see today. All of the pages were bonded together well and still intact, while others looked to have been coming apart. For me, the way the cover of a book looks helps me to decide if I want to look further into it. With the first glance of this book, I knew that I could not just stop at the cover.

When I first sat down with the book, I began to further examine its nature. This book was not as thick as the others were. However, the pages were fairly large. With the pages being fairly large, this resulted in the book having larger text and images to cover as much area of the page that they wanted to cover. The pages even looked and felt smoother than many of the others. This is because the book is a collection of serigraphs. Serigraphs are printed designs produced by a silkscreen.

The first thing that I noticed about this book compared to the others was the use of colors and pictures. The pictures depicted in this book were not drawn in like the ones in some of the others. While many of the other books contained pictures in just black and white, this book contained pictures using a wide range of colors. An interesting thing that I noticed about the colors on each page is that many of them are not close together on the color wheel, meaning that most pages contained a warm and a cool color. This really helps to make the items of the page jump out at you. The assembling of the words on each page was another interesting feature of this book. On most pages the words were written from left to right while on some they were written sideways. As I looked closely at the words, I realized that they were all quotes.

This picture shows her use of warm and cool colors together.

As I continued to sit with the book I began to notice something interesting about the context presented on each page. Each page contained a different letter of the alphabet on it. Some of the pictures on the pages even started with the letter depicted. For example, on the page with the L, a lion is depicted in the background. Also, on the page that portrayed the letter E, an eye was depicted. I thought that this idea was very interesting and really draws the reader in to want to look more into the book.

This picture shows where the first letter of the image matches the letter depicted.

This picture shows where the first letter of the image matches the letter depicted.

I believe that what makes this book such a special one to keep has much to do with the influence that Sister Corita had on the lives of many people. Not only was she an artist, she was also an educator and advocate for social justice. Over time her work evolved from figurative and religious pieces to her use of slogans, quotes, and even song lyrics. During the 1970s, her work evolved even more after her move to Boston. Her new environment really set off her artwork, which continued to alter her art style for the better.

Sister Corita began creating silkscreen prints as she was finishing up her masters degree at The University of Southern California. It is believed that she began silkscreen prints because she wanted to make her work more affordable and available. As time passed after she began practicing this printing, she won 1st place in two competitions for one of her prints, lord is with thee.” Throughout her accomplishments she continued to teach her students at Immaculate Heart College what she had been learning how to do. 

This picture shows her use of warm and cool colors together.

Her book, Damn everything but the circus, got its name from the poem written by E.E. Cummings, who was well known for many of his poems. This book consisted of quotes from a number of other writers as well. Many of which are believed to have been some of her favorites. Some of these writers included Winston Brebner, Joan Baez, John Dewey, and Lord Buckley. Many of the quotes that she chose to use were a way for her to portray social justice issues that were going on.

The Title

Sister Corita was a very persevering individual. In 1974, she was diagnosed with cancer and in 1977, she was diagnosed with cancer a second time. However, with her ability to persevere through these obstacles, she was still able to create more works of art. An important one being her design for a postage stamp in 1983. After she completed the design she refused to go to the unveiling of it because it was taking place on the Love Boat, which was not exactly what she was aiming for with her art. She wished that the stamp would be unveiled at the United Nations, which goes to show how much she valued political issues. Unfortunately in 1986, she was diagnosed with liver cancer which she eventually died from, leaving much of her unsold art pieces to the Immaculate Heart Community. By the time of her death, she had already created numerous works of art, including her nearly 800 serigraph editions and many more.

All of this goes to show what exactly makes her book so special and important to be included in Special Collections. Sister Corita was such an influencing person, not only to the people around her but to many others as well. She was the type of influence that did not let anything hold her back, no matter how tough things may have been to deal with. She used her skills and what she had learned to teach her students so that they could create works of art using their own styles. Her support for social justice really stood out in her artwork, and her portrayal of this just continued to evolve over the course of her life.



Center, Corita Art. “The Corita Art Center.” Corita.org, corita.org/about-corita.
“Corita Kent.” 111 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy, www.artsy.net/artist/corita-kent-1.