|PRINT |||SHARE: |||
Photographed By Kirsten Beckerman
That’s the inscription on a handmade Christmas card that has pride of place among hundreds of cards, posters, snippets of paper and framed photographs that line the walls of Gerold & Vincent Graphic Design studio. Sisters Mary Gerold Mobley and Marie Vincent Brothers. Or, to those who know them, G&V.
These two School Sisters of Notre Dame have been a creative force at the College of Notre Dame for 25 years, first as art teachers in the education department, and now as in-house graphic designers. That favored Christmas card was created by celebrated artist and type designer Edward Benguiat, with whom they once studied. They giggle when they point it out— they’re used to being called things like “swingingest.” With their sleek silver hair, baubly jewelry and chic outfits, they’re hardly the nuns of Catholic grade school lore, though they’ve been members of their religious order for 50 years. Don’t ask how old they are, though. Their smiles turn shy and their enthusiasm dims. “It’s just a little quirk we have,” they say.
The sisters first met in 1964 while pursuing graduate studies in English and art at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Later, while both were teaching at a school for gifted and talented youth in St. Louis, they took a silkscreening class that they say changed their lives and made them see art in a new way.
The class was taught by Corita Kent, whose artwork and anti-war activism landed her on a Newsweek cover in 1967— and also landed her in trouble with the Catholic Church (she was a nun at the time). Her colorful rainbow swash design for the “Love” postage stamp in 1985 became a best seller. Hanging in G&V’s studio, which is located in the basement of Meletia Hall on campus, are several Kent silkscreens, including one quoting an e.e. cummings poem, “Damn Everything but the Circus.” “She inspired us,” says Sister Gerold. “She was a wild artist.”
Sister Gerold and Sister Vincent came to the college in 1983 and taught art education to budding elementary school teachers. In 2001, they gave up teaching, but they’ve left deep impressions on their former students. “They are the most amazing and fun-loving people I’ve ever met,” says Anne Walker, who studied with G&V from 1983 to 1988. Walker is now chair of the Art Department at Notre Dame Preparatory School. Another former student is Amy Fister, now an accomplished designer and founder of Fister Lauberth, Inc. in St. Louis. “It’s been 31 years since my last formal class with them,” says Fister, “and I can find a way to trace some aspect of everything I do and who I am back to what I learned from them. They taught me to see.”
Sister Gerold is the more talkative of the two, words rushing out and tumbling over each other. She often finishes the sentences of Sister Vincent, who sits quietly, arms crossed, while Sister Gerold pops in and out of her chair, pointing out prints, retrieving photo albums and beads and cards. Two large iMacs sit on desks to one side of their studio, while shelves and tables throughout the room hold hand-carved fonts, rubber stamps, ink pads, cloth, books and paper.
Sister Gerold and Sister Vincent believe everyone can “see” in an artistic sense and they regard their work as a mission. “Art is so important,” says Sister Gerold. “To look at things we love, to be stimulated by beautiful things. They encourage us. They lift us up.” They’re saddened by the state of art education in the world at large. “I don’t think art is being taught as much as it should be,” they say. “We’re lost in sports, in politics.”
These days, G&V focus their artistic energy on creating greeting cards, most of which sell for 50 cents— “We’re not in this to make money,” they laugh— otherwise, all their work is for the college. The cards combine quotations from literature with G&V designs: hand-stamped lettering by Sister Vincent, photography by Sister Gerold. You can’t find them at your local stationery store. You have to go straight to the source, to the basement of Theresa Hall on the North Charles Street campus. Go in the morning, and you’re likely to find them. But after 1 p.m., they head out to design at home, to pick up inspiration at Michaels (the arts and crafts store) or, sometimes, to work as extras in a movie being filmed in Baltimore. They already have “Enemy of the State,” “Random Hearts,” “Liberty Heights,” “Ladder 49” and “Contact” under their belts.
“Are you really nuns?” actor Will Smith once asked them. “Yes,” Sister Gerold replied, “but we like to have fun.”