LEGACY OF A FEMINIST LESBIAN – ARTIST TEE CORINNE {FEATURE}

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Tee Corinne was born November 3rd, 1943 and grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her mother, also an artist, was the one to introduce her to the principles and techniques visual art that would resonate in her life. According to Corinne, “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.”

She succeeded in achieving a B.A. in printmaking & painting (with minors in English and history) from the University of South Florida, then went on to get an M.F.A. in drawing and sculpture at Pratt Institute, graduating in 1968. Afterwards she taught for many years, explored backpacking Europe as many of us do in our explorative youth, and then finally settled on the back-to-the-land movement and communal living. At this time in her life though she was battling many things internally and she put it “suicidal depression“.

“Something didn’t feel right. Nowadays they talk about over-achieving adult children of alcoholics and the problems they have with depressions . . . 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 Women’s Movement. I felt better.”

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Married in 1966 to a man she called her ‘best friend’ – it took nearly 10 years for Corinne to realize and later come out of the closet in 1975 all while battling her depression – something not easily done back then, especially with such a prestigious public career based on judgement of ones creative expression. This would actually later on in life propel her to heights in her career and achievements that would distinguish her as “one of the most visible and accessible lesbian artists in the world“, according to the Completely Queer : The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia.

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From the mid-1960’s to the day she died Corinne created, published, and exhibited her art and writing around the world. She was a co-facilitator of the Feminist Photography Ovulars (1979–1981) and a co-founder of The Blatant Image, A Magazine of Feminist Photography (1981–1983). She was the author of one novel, three collections of short stories, four books of poetry and numerous artists books and small edition publications. Not only that but she has had portfolios of her published in Lesbian Subjects, Feminist Studies, Gallerie: Women’s Art, The Advocate, Philadelphia Gay News, The Lesbian Inciter, I Am My Lover (first edition, 1979) and Femalia. In 1980, she was one of ten selected artists invited to have their work exhibited in the Great American Lesbian Art Show.

As a strong figure in the lesbian/feminist movement, she felt that maintaining women’s right through her work was very important, this made her adept at representing lesbian sexuality in ways that would elude and subvert the male gaze. With this focus in mind, in 1982, she produced a series of photographs called Yantras of Womanlove. She was concerned with protecting the privacy of her models, as with most artists, so she used techniques involving multiple prints, solarization, images printed in negative, and multiple exposures to creat an obscure presentation of her figures and thus concealing their true identities. She was an advocate of true beauty, consistently and conscientiously including women of color, overweight women, older women, and women with disabilities as her subjects, showing that there is no one true view of beauty but rather we are all different and that is what makes us beautiful – the beauty is in our difference and our flaws. This wasn’t something welcomed with open arms though, Corinne sometimes was met with apprehension to her work as printers would refuse to print her pieces and art galleries would refuse to show them. In 1975, she self-published the Cunt Coloring Book, a bold statement against the norm and declaration of feminine beauty and strength – it is still in print today.
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In 1991, Lambda Book Report chose her as one of the fifty most influential lesbians and gay men of the decade, paving the way for younger LGBT artists to explore and not hide their artistic prowess. Six years later in 1997 she received the Women’s Caucus for Art President’s Award for service to women in the arts, but she is perhaps best known after all those accomplishments for her 1993 self-titled debut album of the English alternative rock band Suede.
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Sadly, on August 27th, 2006 in Southern Oregon, after a struggle with liver cancer, Corinne died – she was 62 years old. Soon after her manuscript collection was donated to the University of Oregon Libraries, and is now housed in the library’s Special Collections unit, honored and preserved for the generations to come whom she paved the way for.

Moonforce Media created the Tee A. Corinne Prize for Lesbian Media Artists in 2006 to annually honor Corinne as an artist whose bold vision, never ending dedication, and a fierce voice in not only women’s rights but gay and lesbian rights, changed the art world, our nation, and the LGBT community forever.

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About Dustin Hollywood

Professional Photographer & Founder/Editor-In-Chief of Nakid Magazine: Dustin Hollywood DustinHollywood.com Instagram.com/DustinHollywoodPhoto Twitter.com/DustinHollywood Facebook.com/DustinHollywood

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