Christine Tamblyn was an American artist, feminist critic, and educator active in Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1970s through 1990s, and known for her performance pieces and multimedia works utilizing CD-ROMs and video.
She was born in 1951. She studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1980s. From the late 1970s through the 1990s she was actively involved in a variety of exhibits and conferences. Between 1985 and 1996 she taught at San Francisco State University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Florida International University, Miami. In 1997 she began teaching in the Department of Studio Art at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). At UCI she was instrumental in developing the foundation for a digital arts program. Tamblyn died in 1998.
From the description of Christine Tamblyn papers, 1962-1998 (bulk 1976-1997). (University of California, Irvine). WorldCat record id: 48456433
Christine Tamblyn was an American visual artist and critic active in Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1970s through 1990s, and known for her performance pieces and multimedia works utilizing CD-ROMs and video. She was born in 1951 in Waukegan, Illinois and attended a Catholic girls' school. In 1968 or 1969 she moved to Chicago where she audited courses at the University of Chicago while working as an administrative assistant for an insurance company. She began her studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in approximately 1973 and taught graduate-level courses in video while still an undergraduate. She also worked as the Video and Performance Editor for the New Art Examiner journal from 1977 to 1979, a beginning in her long and prolific career as an art critic. She quickly became an active participant in the flourishing community of Chicago video artists. In a series of lectures about her own work, Tamblyn noted that she focused on video and performance art at SAIC since they were "the closest to everyday life." In the area of performance she was strongly influenced by the work of Allan Kaprow and the Happenings artists of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Among her video teachers was Phil Morton, who in the early 1970s founded the Video Data Bank at SAIC. Morton, Dan Sandin (inventor of the Image Processor, an analog video synthesizer), Tom DeFanti, and Bob Snyder were part of what became known as the Chicago Imagist school of video makers. This group was the "first generation" of video artists to incorporate the use of special effects into their work, a practice that was initially met with derision by other artists who termed the results "video wallpaper."
Tamblyn herself went on to produce video and performance pieces in which she utilized the technologies available at the time to manipulate autobiographically-based materials that she subjected to filtering, with influences ranging from Dada and surrealist art, the mysticism of Rosicrucianism and the Cabala, to poststructuralist and feminist theories. The theoretical foundations that shaped her work can be easily traced through her decades-spanning habit of journal writing as well as her detailed research for exhibition catalogue essays, articles of art criticism, conference and symposia presentations, and academic papers.
After graduating from SAIC around 1979 she moved to New York City. She described her work there as "stylized Neo-Expressionist performances in East Village clubs." The New York period was a difficult one. She taught for a time at the School of Visual Arts and worked in clerical positions. Without access to equipment, however, she could not make the kind of technology-dependent work she had spent four years producing while in Chicago.
From the late 1970s through the 1990s she was actively involved in a variety of national and international conferences, workshops, symposia, lectures, and festivals. She also became progressively involved in work as a curator in the 1980s. In approximately 1982 she entered the MFA program at the University of California, San Diego where she could study with conceptual artists she admired, including Eleanor and David Antin and Allan Kaprow. She received her degree in 1986. Tamblyn also began working with feminist performance artists during this time. In 1984, at the invitation of the Los Angeles Woman's Building, she created As the Worm Turns, a response to what she considered a disturbing anti-pornography stance within certain sectors of the women's movement.
In 1985 she moved to San Francisco and began teaching at San Francisco State University (SFSU). In San Francisco she actively worked as a contributing editor for Artweek, an editor for Cinematograph, and a correspondent for Art news . The issue of censorship and the arts, which occupied the U.S. art world's center stage for much of the late 1980s and early 1990s (funding of the National Endowment for the Arts was a key site of contention), surfaced in her career as an art critic and curator. Tableaux Vivants, a group show sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission and curated by Tamblyn, and the ensuing Climate of Censorship conference in 1989 unleashed a fury of protests and discussions in response to Tamblyn's conflict with one of the participating artists' large-scale sculptures.
The digital revolution of the 1980s and early 1990s found Tamblyn at the forefront, stemming from her early exposure to and use of technology in her pieces. An artist who often collaborated with others, Tamblyn's first CD-ROM, She Loves It, She Loves It Not: Women and Technology (1993), was a joint project with her students at SFSU, Marjorie Franklin and Paul Tompkins. This was one of the first CD-ROMs created and produced by a woman artist. Women and technology remained a topic of intense interest for Tamblyn throughout her career. This is reflected both in journals from her undergraduate days, in which she recorded her frustrating attempts to forge a place for herself as a woman in the male-dominated world of media labs and studios, and in her commitment to new digital genres, which resulted in two additional CD-ROMs, Mistaken Identities (1995) and the posthumous Archival Quality (1998).
Between 1990 and 1996 she taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and Florida International University, Miami (FIU). She left FIU in 1996 for the Department of Studio Art at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), due to what she perceived as a lack of support for the art program. At UCI she was instrumental in developing the foundation for a digital arts program.
Tamblyn's conceptual and intellectual products are at least as significant as her art production. Part of her life-long project was the blurring of borders between art and living. Until the very end of her life, she continued working on the project she had begun as a young artist, the desire to, as she put it, "make my life a work of art. Having my life as my work of art makes my art totally dependent on the contexts that I operate in." Tamblyn died of breast cancer on January 1, 1998 in San Francisco.
A biographical article on Tamblyn is available online through "University of California: In Memoriam."
Born in Waukegan, Illinois and lives in Libertyville.
Moves to Chicago and begins to audit courses at the University of Chicago.
Begins studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
B.F.A., The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
1977- 1979: Video and Performance Editor, New Art Examiner.
1978- 1980: Instructor and Lecturer, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Moves to New York City.
Begins M.F.A. studies at the University of California, San Diego.
Lecturer, The School of Visual Arts, New York.
1983- 1985: Teaching assistant, University of California, San Diego.
Research Assistant to Moira Roth, University of California, San Diego.
Moves to San Francisco.
M.F.A. University of California, San Diego.
1986- ca. 1994: Lecturer and Graduate Program Coordinator, San Francisco State University.
1986- 1989: Contributing Editor, Artweek.
1987- 1988: Editor, Cinematograph.
1987- 1993: Correspondent, Art news.
1988- 1990: Visiting Assistant Professor, San Francisco Art Institute.
Lecturer, University of California, Santa Cruz.
Lecturer, Mills College.
1990- 1993: Visiting Assistant Professor, University of California, Berkeley.
1994- 1996: Assistant Professor, Florida International University.
1996- 1998: Assistant Professor, University of California, Irvine.
Dies on January 1st in San Francisco.
From the guide to the Christine Tamblyn papers, 1962-1998, (bulk 1976-1997), (University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.)
- Feminism and art--Archival resources
- Performance art--Archival resources
- Art, modern--20th century--Illinois--Chicago--Archival resources
- Interactive multimedia--Archival resources
- Art, Modern--20th century--Archival resources
- Art and technology--Archival resources
- Art criticism--Archival resources
- Feminist art criticism--Archival resources
- Video art--Archival resources
- Art, modern--20th century--California--San Francisco Bay Area--Archival resources
- Art critics
- California--San Francisco Bay Area (as recorded)
- Illinois--Chicago (as recorded)