Kay Kurt is a Pop painter of large-scale confections. Her candies lay the foundations of her compositions, much as Jasper Johns’ alphabets or numbers. They structure her canvases abstractly, freeing her to meditate on content. As Richard Hamilton, Robert Watts and Claes Oldenburg also used candies as subject and she often enlarges scale tenfold like a billboard, Kurt's work early on became associated with Pop Art. The scale of Pop Art opened Kurt’s eyes to the possibility of a new vision based on objects instead of landscape.
Born in Dubuque, Iowa, Kurt studied art at Clark College. While at Clark, she met her future husband, the noted medievalist scholar Klaus P. Jankofsky. Kurt obtained her MFA from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and had her initial exhibition at the prestigious Kornblee Gallery in 1968. In 1969, Kurt was included in the exhibition Pop Art Redefined at London's Hayward Gallery.
Following early acclaim, Kurt participated in the 1973 Whitney Biennial and in 1980, had a solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Major institutions, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Whitney Museum acquired her signature large-scale paintings and the Metropolitan Museum of Art counts one of her equally meticulous yet intimate drawings a part of its collection.
With the closing of Kornblee Gallery in the late 1980s, Kurt’s efforts to find new representation were unsuccessful, as interest turned towards Conceptual art. The artist remained based in Duluth, Minnesota, where she continued to devote herself to painting.