LGBTQ History Month: Tee A. Corinne, Lesbian Sexuality Photographer

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Té Corinne. (Photo via Tee A. Corinne papers, Coll 263, University of Oregon Libraries Special Collections and University
Book cover by "Privacy", pink background with two women kissing
“Intimités” by Tee Corinne. (Publisher: Last Gasp)

During her decades as a lesbian photographer and artist, Tee Corinne said: “I am one of the most obscure famous artists.”

Popular? Yes. Obscure? Certainly not in art circles or the queer art world where she started doing groundbreaking work in the 1960s. Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia, “Tee Corinne is one of the most visible and accessible lesbian artists in the world.”

Corinne said in an interview with photographer Barbara Kyne in 2000 why she chose photography: “I wanted to do something where content and politics could be met. The fine arts have accessibility issues. I was an active southerner in the civil rights movement in the south. Printmaking was a way for me to integrate art into politics. Photography is another.

Best known for her erotic lesbian photographs and photographic portraits, Corrine was also an artist, writer, poet, essayist, sex educator, and art historian. She spent the last 25 years of her life living in the woods of Oregon, but she was also an urban and city-oriented designer.

Corinne wrote of her move to Oregon, where she lived in various landholding communities of women before moving to her home outside of Medford :. “

This work was extremely innovative and, like that of his homosexual contemporary, Robert Mapplethorpe, of a provocative eroticism. Lesbian erotic iconography has been viewed through the male gaze as an element of heterosexual pornography for centuries. Corinne placed it firmly in the feminine and lesbian gaze.

Corinne was succinct in what she looked for in her work: “I am interested in loving, beautiful and sexy images. I also want the images to be exciting, to create an adrenaline rush, a surge of desire so intense that the act of looking is sexual.

In Images and passions: a history of homosexuality in the visual arts, James M. Saslow writes: “Tee Corinne paved the way for lesbian photography as a historical document and an erotic fantasy: her celebrations of female passion in non-masculine terms superimpose candid sexual acts on elaborate symbolism. [She has made a] conscious effort to widen the narrow canon of traditional female beauty.

In Beyond the Static Image: Tee Corinne’s Roles as a Pioneer Lesbian Artist and Art Historian, Stefanie Snider writes that “Corinne’s work manages to realize feminist ideals while working outside established norms in both the lesbian and traditional fields of art and art history”.

Write in Uncommon heroes, Paula Neves notes that “graphic representations of women of all shapes, sizes, beauties and physical abilities have strayed from both the fashionable standards of sexual correctness and the Playboy mentality.”

Neves’ assessment is correct. Corinne has photographed herself and other nude women more often, and these portrayals are well outside the patriarchal norms of what female bodies are meant to look like and what role they should play. Corinne did not stop at shattering stereotypes of the male gaze on lesbians. She broke and redefined the lesbian norm of photography by daring to portray naked butch lesbians, disabled lesbians as sexual and female sex acts as almost from another world in their sensuality.

Corinne’s work was so outside heterosexual norms that it was frequently subject to censorship. In 1998, the Traditional Values ​​Coalition used the Pussy coloring book as an example of pornography in a Senate presentation. His book was also cited as illustrating the personal peccadilloes of James Hormel, a gay philanthropist from San Francisco who then President Bill Clinton had appointed ambassador to Luxembourg. Corinne’s book was then part of the Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library that Hormel had helped fund and now bears her name.

What defines Corinne both as an artist and as a person is her boundless curiosity. She was relentlessly interested in everything, and her enthusiasm for discovering something new – like a piece of gossip from the art world of this century or another – was accompanied by a tale between us of the story which was, because of Corinne’s excitement at the discovery, as intriguing for the listener as for her.

This burning interest kept his vision broadened until his untimely death of bile ducts and liver cancer in 2006 at age 62.

Born in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1943, Corinne began carrying a camera at age eight and writing about her artistic vision in high school, filling notepads with drawings and other images.

Corinne studied art and painting at Newcomb College in New Orleans, then graduated with a bachelor’s degree in printmaking and painting, with minors in English and history, from the University of South Florida in 1965.

Corinne obtained an MA in Drawing and Painting from the Pratt Institute in 1968, after which she began teaching art classes at the college. She moved to San Francisco in 1972 and worked briefly in the field of sex education, which propelled her into other artistic endeavors.

During this period, Corinne went out as a lesbian after a brief marriage to a man. She and photographer Honey Lee Cottrell have been partners for several years. During this relationship, Corinne’s art became very erotic, featuring scenes of lesbian love.

She also started drawing female genitals and collected these designs, publishing them herself in Pussy coloring book in 1975. When the lesbian publishing house Naiad Press was created in 1973, Corinne created the first 50 covers.

Corinne’s work has spread to art history and art criticism. She has written on art for various publications and, from 1987, has been an art book columnist for Feminist Bookstore News.

She was co-host of Feminist Photography Ovulars (1979-1981) and co-founder of The blatant image, A feminist photography magazine (1981-1983). Co-founder and former co-chair of the Gay & Lesbian Caucus, an affiliate of the College Art Association, she also co-founded the Women’s Caucus for Art Lesbian & Bisexual Caucus.

This work was an integral part of her work as an artist, and throughout her life Corinne sought to discover the work of lesbian artists and other women.

Corinne’s last work was Scars, ostomy, ostomy bag, portacath: imagine cancer in our lives. The subject was the body of her partner Beverly Brown in the last year of her life, as she died of cancer.

Corinne said: “The images we see, as a culture, help define and expand our dreams, our perceptions of what is possible. Images of who we are help us visualize who we can be.

Moonforce Media established the Tee A. Corinne Prize for Lesbian Media Artists in 2006 to annually honor Corinne as an artist with a bold vision and a staunch commitment to fostering and preserving lesbian art. The award is an unrestricted grant of up to $ 1,000 per year. The award is dedicated to artists working in photography, film, video, digital media, new media or any fusion of these forms and in any genre, including documentary, narrative, experimental or any other style or combination of genres . The award responds to Corinne’s wish that individual lesbian artists be financially supported to work independently and without censorship.

Corinne’s work is archived in the Special Collections and Academic Archives of the University of Oregon Libraries, where it is available for research. The collection includes “correspondence, literary manuscripts, works of art, photographs, artefacts and other documents which reflect the life and work of Corinne”.


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