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Copyright 2006 Carolyn Gage Tee Corinne: Lesbian Artist and Revolutionary 1943-2006 I met Tee Corinne at a women

writers group in her home a few weeks after I moved to Southern Oregon, in 1988. I had just come out, and Tee was the first lesbian artist I had met whose art was for lesbians and from a lesbian perspective. I could not have found a more inspiring and revolutionary model. Tee was born and grew up in Florida. Her mother introduced her to principles and techniques for making visual art. According to Tee, I have seldom succeeded in keeping a diary, but I have almost always carried a drawing pad and, since, my eighth year, I have also had a camera. 1 With a bachelors degree in printmaking and painting (with minors in English and history), she went on in 1968 to get an MFA in drawing and sculpture at Pratt Institute. After a few years of teaching and backpacking in Europe, she became attracted to the back-to-the-land movement and communal living. She was also, in her words, sliding into suicidal depression: Something didnt feel right. Nowadays they talk about overachieving adult children of alcoholics and the problems they have with depression Around the age of thirty I realized that art could no longer solve my problems I found therapy, separated from my husband, became involved with women and joined the Womens Movement. I felt better. 2 At forty-four, Tee recovered memories of being sexually molested at the age of six. . I am coming to look on my suicidal years (13-29) through the lens of this information, and find, even then, strengths to be drawn upon: the strength of the survivor; the strength of talking which chips away at the killing silence; the knowledge of the value of my own life. Its mine. Ive paid for it.3

Tees photography traced the roadmap of her personal journey. In the early 1970s, after moving to California, Tee began working on the San Francisco Sex Information Switchboard, where she claims she learned an appreciation of sexual information. She began researching erotic art by classical artists like Rembrandt and Michelangelo. At this time, the early Second Wave feminists were arguing that heterosexuality and erotic art objectified women, but Tees resistance took an alternate approach: sensuality at its best is transformative. If I had a sense of being in touch with God, it would be at the point of orgasm. 4 She became adept at representing lesbian sexuality in ways that would elude the male gaze. In 1982, she produced a series of photographs called Yantras of Womanlove. Concerned with protecting the privacy of her models, she used techniques involving multiple prints, solarization, images printed in negative, and multiple exposures. Tee consistently and conscientiously included women of color, fat women, older women, and women with disabilities as her subjects. Sometimes printers would refuse to print her works and art galleries would refuse to show it. In 1975, she self-published the Cunt Coloring Book, which is still in print today. In the early 1980s, Tee moved to Southern Oregon, becoming part of a community of lesbians and other women who were self-consciously creating and documenting a radical, women-only culture. Many of these women were living on womens lands, rural separatist collectives and communes that had been founded in the 1970s. She became a co-facilitator of the Feminist Photography Ovulars and a co-founder of The Blatant Image: A Magazine of Feminist Photography (1981-83). During the next decade, much of her work would focus on her experiences of growing up in an alcoholic family and being molested as a child. My grandmother Mabel died when I was forty, leaving me a suitcase full of five generations of photographs 5 Somewhere in the process of enlarging and coloring in the old photo images, I began to bring the past and present together, visually and psychically.6

During this period, Tee edited several anthologies of lesbian erotic fiction. As an editor, Tee was scrupulously respectful of class difference as it is reflected in writing, again modeling an authentic, not tokenized, diversity. She looked for stories about how sexuality could work with the bodies we have, within our disparate personal histories.7 In 2004, Tees partner of fourteen years, writer and social activist Beverly Anne Brown, was diagnosed with metastasized colon cancer and given a terminal diagnosis. Wanting to use something more immediate than darkroom techniques, Tee learned to use a digital camera and Adobe Photoshop in order to push the polite boundaries of portraiture.8 The result is the series Cancer in Our Lives. After the death of her partner, Tee was diagnosed with a rare form of bile duct cancer. On August 27, 2006, she died quietly in her home. She was surrounded by a network of loving and supportive members of her community, who thoughtfully maintained a weblog in order to keep Tees wider, international community informed about her health. In the monograph about her exhibit titled Family, Tee wrote: If I look inside me, talk to the child within who, after all, is the one who originally wanted to be an artist, I find that she almost always knows how she wants my work to look: Beautiful, in a big and powerful way.9 Those words could stand as her epitaph. Tee, you will be missed. Footnotes: 1. Tee Corinne, Personal Statement, http://www.varoregistry.com/corinne/pers.html 2. Tee Corinne, Family: Growing Up In an Alcoholic Family, (North Vancouver, B.C: Gallerie Publications, 1970), p. 3. 3. Ibid, p. 9. 4. Tee Corinne, interviewed by Barbara Kyne, http://www.queerarts.org/archive/9809/corinne/corinne.html 5. Corinne, Family, p. 7.
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6. Corinne, Family, p. 13. 7. Tee Corinne, Riding Desire, (Austin, Texas: Banned Books, 1990), p.viii). 8. Tee Corinne, Colored Pictures from Cancer in Our Lives, http://www.jeansirius.com/TeeACorinne/Colored_Pictures/ 9. Corinne, Family, p. 13.