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Corinne, Tee (1943-2006)  

A gifted and versatile artist, Tee Corinne worked with photography, line drawing, paint, sculpture, ceramics and printing, and she also published erotic fiction and poetry and reviews. Favorite cover artist for lesbian publisher Naiad, and author of the famous Cunt Coloring Book (the first version of which was published in 1975, but which was reissued as Labiaflowers in 1981), Corinne's work is found on bookshelves across the lesbian nation.

Born Linda Tee Cutchin on November 3, 1943, in St. Petersburg, Florida, Tee Corinne attended Newcomb College of Tulane University before obtaining her B. A. from the University of South Florida (1965) and her Master of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute (1968). After a seven-year marriage, she became the shy superstar of lesbian erotica.

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Corinne's courage in insisting that the frank and erotic representation of lesbian sex empowers women gained her the respect of different "schools" of lesbian thought, even those that usually regard one another with hostility. Thus, her work may be found in Pat Califia's Sapphistry (1988) but also in Lesbian Culture (1993), to whose editors, Julia Penelope and Susan Wolfe, Califia is the lesbian antichrist.

Corinne is sometimes accused of romanticizing lesbian sex. Close analysis, however, tells a different story. The sex scenes that now saturate lesbian culture, complete with leather, toys, and lipstick, are highly staged, use models (albeit often friends of the photographer), and aim to shock as much as titillate.

Corinne's work is very different. Showing real sex between real-life lovers, she is "interested in loving, beautiful, sexy images. . . I also want the images to be a turn on, create an adrenaline high, a rush of desire so intense that the act of looking is sexual." Stripped of the distancing effect of routine pornographic signifiers, Corinne's work becomes more challenging and takes more risks.

Yantras of Womanlove (1982) was the first book of lesbian erotic photographs ever published, and Corinne was at the forefront of the fight against censorship. Printers often refused to handle her work, and community art galleries sometimes declined to show it. The inclusiveness of her sex photographs also broke new ground. Fat women, women of color, and disabled women are presented to be gazed at with desire, lust, and pleasure. In the era before political correctness, this diversity was genuinely revolutionary.

Partly to protect the privacy of her models and partly to express the beauty and complexity of lesbian sex, Corinne's photographs often use solarization and repeat/reverse printing to produce kaleidoscopic images. At first glance these images are merely pretty, but closer study reveals astonishingly explicit sexual activity. Their complexity and attractiveness take these blatant images of lesbian sex into places that staged S&M photographs cannot reach.

In 1985 Yantras was seized by New Zealand customs, but released by the Indecent Publications Tribunal on the grounds that the abstractness of the photographs meant that even young children could glance at the book and not be corrupted! This "open hidden-ness" is also a rich metaphor for lesbian sexuality itself--invisible unless you know what to look for, and then, suddenly, it has been there all along.

Combining technical skill in a variety of media, aesthetic inventiveness, and a sexual openness absent from much "bad girl" lesbian pornography, Tee Corinne invented a new language for lesbian sexual power.

In addition to her own original contributions to lesbian art and photography, Corinne was tireless in supporting other lesbian artists. She wrote about art for a variety of publications. A co-founder and past co-chair of the Gay & Lesbian Caucus (an affiliated society of the College Art Association), she is also a co-founder of the Lesbian & Bisexual Caucus of the Women's Caucus for Art. In 1991 she was chosen by Lambda Book Report as one of the fifty most influential lesbians and gay men of the decade.

[Corinne died at her home in Oregon on August 27, 2006, after a valiant struggle with liver cancer. She was preceded in death by her longtime partner, Beverly Brown.

In her honor Moonforce Media established the Tee A. Corinne Prize for Lesbian Media Artists. Corinne left her manuscripts and other material to the University of Oregon Libraries.]

Tamsin Wilton

     

 
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A self-portrait by Tee Corinne.
  
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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  American Art: Lesbian, Post-Stonewall

Since Stonewall, lesbian artists in America, from installation artists to filmmakers and photographers to performance artists and painters, have become increasingly diverse and visible.

arts >> Overview:  Censorship in the Arts

Many gay and lesbian artists who have defied the legal and social prohibitions against explicit or sympathetic depictions of homosexuality have seen their art censored or suppressed.

arts >> Overview:  Contemporary Art

Contemporary Art, which designates new currents in art since 1970, is identified with postmodernism; during this period an art addressing gay and lesbian identity emerged.

arts >> Overview:  Erotic and Pornographic Art: Lesbian

Considering the unique set of problems facing lesbians who want to produce erotic art for the enjoyment of other lesbians, it is remarkable that so much lesbian erotica has been produced in so brief a time.

social sciences >> Overview:  Libraries and Archives

Libraries and archives have been the sources of information crucial to the difficult process of identity formation and have been significant repositories for the restoration and reconstruction of queer history.

arts >> Overview:  Photography: Lesbian, Post-Stonewall

Since Stonewall lesbian photographers have created an enduring archive that documents lesbian lives, searches for a lesbian sensibility, and explores various issues of particular import to the lesbian community.

literature >> Califia, Patrick

Controversial for defending sadomasochism and pornography, gender outlaw and sexual anarchist Patrick Califia, who recently underwent gender reassignment, is widely admired as a defender of individual freedom.


    Bibliography
   

Boffin, Tessa, and Jean Fraser, ed. Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs. London: Pandora, 1991.

Califia, Pat. Sapphistry: The Book of Lesbian Sexuality. Tallahassee: Naiad Press, 1988.

Corinne, Tee. Labiaflowers: A Coloring Book. Tallahassee: Naiad Press, 1981; also published as The Cunt Coloring Book. San Francisco: Last Gasp Press, 1988.

_____, with Jacqueline Lapidus. Yantras of Womanlove: Diagrams of Energy. Tallahassee: Naiad Press, 1982.

_____, et al. Intimacies. San Francisco: Last Gasp of San Francisco, 2001.

Penelope, Julia, and Susan Wolfe, eds. Lesbian Culture: An Anthology. Freedom, Cal.: The Crossing Press, 1993.

Wilton, Tamsin. Finger-Licking Good: The Ins and Outs of Lesbian Sex. London: Cassell, 1996.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Wilton, Tamsin  
    Entry Title: Corinne, Tee  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 11, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/corinne_ta.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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