Corinne, Tee, 1943-2006

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Tee A. Corinne (1943- ) is an American photographer, artist, writer, and lesbian activist.

From the description of Tee A. Corinne papers, 1966-2003. (University of Oregon Libraries). WorldCat record id: 70955458

Prolific artist, writer and lesbian activist Tee A. Corinne was born in 1943 in St. Petersburg, Florida. She grew up in the South, living in Florida and North Carolina until moving to New Orleans as a young woman. In 1968 she received an MFA from Pratt Institute, but although she was already exhibiting her work throughout the U.S., it wasn't until the early 1970s that Corinne began to explore the feminist and sexual content for which she is best known.

Corinne had a turbulent childhood. Her mother and stepfather were alcoholics. At age three-and-a-half, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She spent three months recovering in a nursing home and nineteen months with her grandparents in Yankeetown, Florida, where she grew to love country living. She was not permitted to resume normal activity until age eight.

As a teenager, Corinne became aware that she was attracted to both men and women. At boarding school in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, she discovered that she thrived in an academically and artistically rigorous environment. At graduation, she won the school’s art award and a National Journalism award for work on the school newspaper.

Early in 1965 in Florida, Corinne became involved with Robert Kamen, a folk musician from Queens. In December she moved to New York City with him and they married ten months later. Corinne worked as an editorial assistant for a trade magazine and attended graduate school at Pratt Institute where she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1968.

Interested in sexual imagery by “great masters” of art history since first seeing it in New Orleans, Corinne began around 1968 to locate books containing these images. Such books had previously been censored by the United States government. She experimented with sexual imagery in her own art, beginning with photographs of heterosexual couples kissing and moving on to drawings of her own genitals, a subject for which she could find no other models.

In 1969, having finished a year of postgraduate work in sculpture, Corinne and Kamen moved to Connecticut where he attended graduate school and she taught college art, made life-size figure sculptures, and became increasingly depressed. Corinne stopped making art when the couple moved to San Francisco in 1972 and separated in 1973. Work with acclaimed therapists Bob and Mary Goulding brought an end to the depression.

Over the next year and a half, Corinne came out as a lesbian. She began making art again, this time boldly committed to using explicit sexual imagery. Recognizing that her sexual art could not be exhibited in traditional art galleries, Corinne sought out alternative venues such as women’s coffeehouses, bookstores, and lesbian bars. Her images were frequently published in the emerging feminist press.

In San Francisco, Corinne began to work in sex education, ultimately joining the training staff of San Francisco Sex Education Switchboard. In 1975, she photographed women kissing, hugging, and making love. Many of these images were used as the basis for Victoria Hammond’s illustrations in Loving Women, one of the first lesbian “sex manuals.”

Out of her work in sex education, she became aware of the need for accessible images of female genitalia. In November of 1975, she self published The Cunt Coloring Book, a collection of line drawings of vulvas that is still in print.

In that same year, Corinne entered her first long term relationship with a woman, photographer Honey Lee Cottrell, with whom she often collaborated on imagery and shows. They remained together until 1977.

After the well-known photographer Ruth Bernhard counseled her to photograph famous people or, “You will have a basement full of [photographs of] your friends,” Corinne began a series of portraits of lesbian writers and artists.

In 1976 Corinne and Cottrell met Ruth and Jean Mountaingrove, publishers and editors of WomanSpirit magazine. That summer they visited the Mountaingroves at Golden, a gay owned, communal, rural land in Southern Oregon. On this trip, Corinne realized it was possible to live close to the land without sacrificing contact with a vibrant artistic community.

In 1977, with publication on the front cover of Sinister Wisdom magazine, Corinne’s lesbian sexual graphics reached an international lesbian audience. The erotically-charged image, enlarged into a poster, was a bestseller in women’s bookstores into the early 1980s.

Around 1977, Corinne began formally researching the history of lesbian imagery in the fine arts. Of the need for lesbian scholarship, Corinne says, “The lack of a publicly accessible history is a devastating form of oppression. Lesbians face it constantly.”

Her sexual imagery was published in the ground-breaking collections I Am My Lover (1978) and A Woman’s Touch (1979). The latter included a solarized image of a nude woman in a wheelchair kissing her able-bodied lover and a fat couple embracing.

During the later 1970s and early 1980s, Corinne gave presentations about lesbian sexual imagery in art and about her own art, traveling with a slide show around the U.S., to Canada, and to Mexico. In 1979, she became lovers with Caroline Overman, one of the editors of WomanSpirit magazine, a relationship which continued, with breaks, until 1984.

Corinne spent a year and a half in Brooklyn (1979-1981) where she participated in art shows in Manhattan. In the summer of 1981, she relocated to Southern Oregon. Between 1979 and 1981, Corinne co-facilitated Feminist Photography Ovulars, low-tech workshops held at Rootworks, Southern Oregon women’s land. With Ruth and Jean Mountaingrove, Caroline Overman, and others, she co-founded The Blatant Image: A Magazine of Feminist Photography (1981 to 1983).

In 1980, Corinne was one of ten openly lesbian artists to be honored in The Great American Lesbian Art Show (GALAS) at the Women’s Building in Los Angeles. Two years later, her book of stylized lovemaking images, Yantras of Womanlove came out. The structure of the imagery, collaging explicit pictures into forms that made pattern more dominant than subject matter, gave a degree of safety for viewing still-taboo activities.

Between 1984 and 1988, her companion was author Lee Lynch. Encouraged by Lynch, Corinne completed a collection of erotic stories, Dreams of the Woman Who Loved Sex, in 1987; its first print run sold out in six weeks. In 1984, Corinne began to make art out of her experiences growing up in an alcoholic family. Exhibited as “Family,” the mixed media paintings received regional acclaim.

In 1989 Corinne began a relationship with author and rural activist Beverly A. Brown, founding editor of Maize magazine, a relationship which would continue for the next sixteen years.

Corinne won a Lambda Literary Award in 1990 as editor of the erotic anthology, Intricate Passions . This was followed by three other anthologies and two books of her own short stories, Courting Pleasure (1994) and Lovers (1989). She was instrumental in founding the Gay and Lesbian Caucus, an affiliated society of the College Art Association, a caucus for which she also served as co-chair. Her novel, The Sparkling Lavender Dust of Lust was published in 1991, the same year she was chosen by Lambda Book Report as one of the “50 most influential lesbians and gay men of the decade.”

Since 1991, Corinne has continued to make art, publish essays, book reviews, and encyclopedia entries, and write and edit books of short stories and poetry. Her documentary essay, “Lesbian Photography on the U.S. West Coast, 1972-1997,” appears on Purdue University’s Women Artists of the American West website (http://www.sla.purdue.edu/waaw/). Her 2002 book, Intimacies, Photos by Tee A. Corinne, was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. She won the Women’s Caucus for Art President’s Award 1997 and the Abdill-Ellis Lambda Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia, calls Tee A. Corinne “one of the most visible and accessible lesbian artists in the world.”

Small-edition books by Corinne include The Little Houses on Women’s Land (2002), Drawing as a Problem-Solving Activity (2002), Wild Lesbian Roses: Essays on Art, Rural Living, and Creativity, 1986-1994 (1997), What Difference Does Poetry Make? (1996), Family (1990), Lesbian Muse (1989), and Women Who Loved Women (1984).

Sources:

Corinne, Tee A. The Sex Lives of Daffodils: Growing Up as an Artist Who Also Writes. Wolf Creek, OR : Pearlchild, c1997 Sherman, Phillip and Samuel Bernstein, eds. Uncommon Heroes . Fletcher Press, c1994 Queer arts.org. "Obscurely Famous," an interview with Tee Corinne. September 1998. (August 27, 2003). Online at http://www.queer arts.org/archive/9809/corinne/corinne.html

From the guide to the Tee A. Corinne papers, 1966-2003, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Corinne, Tee, 1943-2006. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
creatorOf Corinne, Tee, 1943-2006. Tee A. Corinne papers, 1966-2003. University of Oregon Libraries
referencedIn Mountaingrove, Ruth. Ruth Mountaingrove papers, 1972-1985. University of Oregon Libraries
creatorOf Corinne, Tee. Corinne, Tee : [photography bio file]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
creatorOf Tee A. Corinne papers, 1966-2003 University of Oregon Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Corinne, Tee, 1943-2006. Tee A. Corinne papers, 1966-2003. University of Oregon Libraries
creatorOf Kuda, Marie,. Valerie Taylor collection, 1973-1997. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Valerie Taylor collection, 1973-1997. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Arobateau, Red Jordan. Red Jordan Arobateau pictorial collection [graphic]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Ruth Mountaingrove papers, 1950-1999 University of Oregon Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Arobateau, Red Jordan. person
associatedWith Corinne, Tee, 1943-2006. person
associatedWith Kuda, Marie, person
associatedWith Marie, Kuda person
associatedWith Mountaingrove, Ruth. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
Erotic stories, American
Lesbian erotica--Specimens
Lesbian erotica--United States--Specimens
Lesbians' writings, American
Alcoholism in art
Lesbian authors--20th century
Literature
Photography, Erotic
Publishers and Publishing
Oregon
Women
Women photographers--United States
Women photographers
Arts and Humanities
Lesbian authors--United States--20th century
Lesbians--Literary collections
Lesbian artists
Lesbianism in art
sexuality
Lesbian artists--United States
Erotic literature, American--Women authors
Generative organs, Female--Pictorial works
Occupation
Photographers
Activity

Person

Birth 1943-11-03

Death 2006-08-27

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Ark ID: w6br951f

SNAC ID: 19047734