Tee Corinne

August 30th, 2006 | The Artistic Condition

sinister wisdom by tee corinne

Lesbian icon, artist, and photographer Tee Corinne died on Sunday, of cancer. It’s very sad–she was only 62. The erotic images she was creating in the late seventies and early eighties were a big influence on me when I was first starting out as a cartoonist. This photo from 1977, “Sinister Wisdom,” is one of her most well-known shots.

Here’s a passage about it from an interview with Tee in Nothing But The Girl, Susie Bright’s and Jill Posener’s excellent compendium of lesbian erotic photography:

Tee became the poster girl of the lesbian living room when she created a cover for the radical feminist journal Sinister Wisdom, in which one woman cradles another. Tee recalls that the picture was originally submitted to a sex education textbook publisher who refused it:

“The editor of the Sex Atlas wrote to me and said that one woman’s hair was too short, and the other’s breasts were too long; the couple appeared to have an age difference, and people would think it was a sort of mother/daughter picture…My response was, ‘You fucker, I’ll make that picture famous.’ I didn’t know how, but I just knew the picture was strong, and eventually I solarized it. Within a year, that image had become the poster that everyone in the women’s community had on their wall.”

Here’s a link to a blog about Tee’s illness, with more details. And check out Susie Bright’s blog for a really nice piece about Tee, the August 27th entry.

27 Responses to “Tee Corinne”

  1. liza from pine street art works says:

    This announcement was sent to me by Alix Dobkin a couple of days ago:

    A new prize has been created to honor Tee A. Corinne, an artist with bold vision and a fierce dedication to encouraging and preserving lesbian art. The Tee A. Corinne Prize for Lesbian Media Artists, established by Moonforce Media, will award unrestricted grants of up to $1,000 annually. JEB (Joan E. Biren) will choose the inaugural prize winner. Application guidelines are online at http://www.jebmedia.com/5322.html. Applications are due by November 1, 2006.

    The prize is for artists working in photography, film, video, digital media, new media, or any fusions of these forms and in any genre including documentary, narrative, experimental, or any other styles or combination of genres. The work may be about any subject.

  2. Duncan says:

    Ah, that is sad. I remember seeing that solarized image back in the, well, 70s. It seems to me that lesbian artists have come up with erotic images that are so much more iconic and moving than anything that gay male artists have.

    So Corinne was only 7 years older than I am. It’s great to hear that she’s being memorialized with that prize.

  3. Deb says:

    Awwwwwwwwwwwww, very sad news! Yes, she was only 7 years my senior as well. I remember looking at this image many times when I was a “baby-dyke” and thought it was one of the most erotic images I could ever imagine…..and it still is up there at the top. Alison, thanks for honoring her in the blog!

  4. Jaibe says:

    I’m glad you could honour her in you blog too, not only because it was so educational (her dealing with that stupid rejection that way) but also because it saves you trying to render that picture in itty-bitty micro style on the rear wall of one of your frames :-)

  5. Aunt Soozie says:

    What a gorgeous image.
    I had never seen it before.
    I had read that Tee Corinne was ill.
    Thanks for posting this Alison.

  6. Danyell says:

    I’ll admit that I had never heard of Tee Corinne before. So sad to learn about her only after her death (or, rather, because of..). But thank you for the education.

  7. Carmen Sandiego says:

    I bring Nothing But the Girl, to Church.

  8. Daisy Thompson says:

    I also love the picture and am sad Tee Corinne has died. But I think the rejection was rather interesting. “People would think it was a sort of mother/daughter picture”- well it is sort of a mother/ daughter picture. It’s a modified Pieta pose. That not only suggests motherhood, it also suggests that the relationship the photo depicts has a sacred quality. So the picture affirms a lesbian sexual relationship as something both nurturing and sacred. I don’t know what the pictures included in the SEX ATLAS are like, but if they are no better than the book’s title that picture would have to make them all look pretty bad by comparison.

  9. Deb says:

    I don’t see a mother/daughter thing in the picture at all. I see two young women……maybe butch/femme…….making love. Maybe I am not seeing the deeper side, but I see no older woman there…….and I don’t agree with the Pieta pose. I just don’t see that either.

  10. Aunt Soozie says:

    Carmen?
    I thought Nothing But the Girl was your church.

  11. Carmen Sandiego says:

    Oh Baby it is.
    Within the first few hardcover copies of Nothing But the Girl, I’ve noticed that some of the more graphic pictures were taken out of the recent softcover edition. All the pictures with Lesbian couples exploring “fisting” for example, were removed.

  12. Lesbesquet says:

    I hung this poster on the wall so everyone who came to my front door would see it before anything else. It functioned so well as a repellant to undesireable intruders while welcoming….us.
    Tee Corinne has recently given me a very much appreciated blessing. In the way that she does this for us, she will never die. Ache O

  13. Monique says:

    I would like to have this poster. How can I order it ? Excuse my english writing … I’m a french person from Montreal (Quebec/Canada).

    Thank you. Here my e-mail address: mzen16@hotmail.com

  14. Elaine B. says:

    Here is the place to order the print – available from irelock & everything art (plus shipping),

    http://www.irelock.com/

    approx. size est. price

    the sinister wisdom poster 16×20 $75.00

    she who loves purple 28×40 200.00
    begonia leaves & orchids 26×32 200.00
    hungry baby birds 24×28 140.00
    crocosmia 29×36 200.00
    cyclamen 11×14 75.00

    I would also think that the proceeds will go to Tee’s estate and benefit her memorial at the University of Oregon

    Cheers,

    Elaine

  15. victoria brownworth says:

    tee corinne was one of the most wonderful friends i have ever had. always warm, always loving, always smart, always funny. i shall always regret that i wasn’t able to see her during her final illness, although i did try to raise money for her to live on while she was ill through various articles about her. my final love note to tee the eroticist and tee my beloved friend who took so many wonderful photographs of me over the years is to be doing an erotic history that she was scheduled to do when she felt so suddenly ill after the conference and asked the editor to have me do it instead. the book–the golden age of lesbian erotica, 1920-1940–is dedicated to her. i will miss her smile (although a photo of her smiling is a few feet from me as i write this) most of all. she gave us so much–the love of body is a significant gift and tee had it and shared it and i shall love her always for that and so much more—victoria brownworth

  16. Jill Posener says:

    Couldn’t help but notice the exchange about Nothing But The Girl and wanted to explain why we had to take some photos out of the paperback edition. British laws on certain sex acts are different from US ones. The paperback edition was intended solely for UK, and Susie Bright and I fought for every image, but had to give up a few. I think we replaced them with pretty good ones! The fisting imagery was tough to lose.
    Tee Corinne was of the most profound influences on both Susie and myself – she is and always will be missed.

  17. silvia t. says:

    è impresso nel mio cuore l’immagine di chi a vissuto veramente per quello che è

  18. lepa mladjenovic says:

    writing from cold belgrade night. moving through the internet to find the love story of tee corrine. feeling melancolic. remembering how fascinated how beautifull i felt when first time i saw sinsiter wisdom photograph! ah! she made me feel lesbian love is a piece of art. proud of great lesbian tee corinne.

  19. HLM says:

    Deb, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who sees it as two women having passionate sex. It seems quite clear to me that the woman ‘cradling’ the other woman is also stroking, finger, f*cking or otherwise doing fabulous things to her vulva and/or vagina, while she also kisses her neck, and loves her, sagging breasts and all. It creeps me out b/c it’s in negative, which is always eerie, but it’s also beautiful and raw and real, not airbrushed fake perfection but real women having real sex that is not about titillating men. That’s what makes it great LESBIAN art as well as just great art, to me. Aloha all, HLM

  20. Jaxedit says:

    I’m the poet whose conversations with Tee Corinne led to the way she played with those solarized photos in her book “Yantras of Womanlove” and the author of the poems in that book. I’ve only just found out about her death–nearly five months later!–and I am deeply saddened that she was taken so soon. Tee was a couple of years younger than I am, but believe me, 60-something is a lot younger than it used to be. It’s hard to believe we have become “history,” as well as mainstreamed. Time to clamor for a re-edition of “Yantras” and to make new art in Tee’s memory!

  21. pandora says:

    last night i was looking through the december 06 Curve… and was SO excited when i saw Tee’s photo and that there was an article about her…. i shrieked, “hey this is an article about my friend!” then my joy toppled in a shower of sparks when i realized that the article was to commemorate her life, and that she passed away last august. i had no idea. Tee was / is an incredible artist, an loving friend and inspiring woman all around. in my early twenties i was lucky enough to live close by Tee and Bev, i house sat for them, worked in their garden, helped them chop wood. she photographed me and my girlfriend at the time in a long process of taking off our clothes and kissing. she had us over for dinner, was a fantastic writing coach in a shared writers group, and i am stunned at the loss of her presence, even though it has been many years since i have seen her. please. tell the people you love them you do. inform those who inspire you that they are amazing. i am spinning wide open, struck home again by
    the precious of this one lovely life. communicate all your love. and i plan on writing Tee a long letter and magicking it into the ether. i know she will get it loud and clear.

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  25. Betty Lark Ross says:

    What an inspiration! A joy to see her photos. She continues to impact all who will see her work on the internet and in her publications. I am profoundly impacted. I was searching on the internet today to see what other lesbian photographers had work posted and or written about on line and found this bold, beautiful and creative work that celebrated our sexuality. What a treat! I figured out that Tee was about 65 now and I thought she was somewhere in Oregon and I keep searching around on the internet because I wanted to contact her to see about buying one of her photos. Then sadly I as I kept looking, I learned that she had died of cancer. I can’t help feeling sad, that I can not meet her in person or tell her that she is someone I admire. I certainly would have loved adding her to my collection of photos of me kissing women I admire.

  26. falloch says:

    While packing up some books at my mum’s last month, I found an old copy of Common Lives/Lesbian Lives (#4), published in Iowa City in the early eighties, with a set of photographs by Tee ‘Packing Up Books at Charley Lake’. I must confess I’d forgotten about her, though those photos has intrigued me when I first saw them, and I too was totally bowled over by the Sinister Wisdom photo and other solarised works. I googled Tee today and found out she’d passed on nearly two years ago. I’m going to try and reacquaint myself with her work. it’s so sad she died relatively young and largely unrecognised by the mainstream, but I’m so glad she never compromised her work in a bid to get into that mainstream.

  27. Donna Taylor says:

    I copied this from a local email list- tthought you’d want to know we’re celebrating Tee’s work.

    Womanlove: The Life, Art and Legacy of Tee Corinnea Symposiumat the University of Oregon Libraries in EugeneMonday December 8 and Tuesday December 9

    Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Oregon Libraries has installed an exhibit on Tee Corinne, and will hold a short symposium about Tee’s life and work (and about lesbian culture and representation) on Monday, December 8 and Tuesday, December 9.
    The exhibit in Knight Library is entitled WomanLove: The Life, Art, and Legacy of Tee Corinne and runs from September 29 through December 31.

    On December 8 at 7pm, there will be a keynote address by Tirza Latimer (prof. of art history at the California College of the Arts). Following the keynote talk, there will be a catered reception in the Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room.
    On Tuesday, December 9 in the morning [exact time to be determined] there will be a slide show of Ruth Mountaingrove’s photographs, which are also housed in Special Collections and University Archives,and then a panel discussion with Tirza Latimer, UO faculty and graduate students, and others on the topic of lesbian culture and representation. Following the discussion, and a snack break, probablyabout 12:15-1:15 there’ll be a reading, “Tee and Creative Community”, by the Southern Oregon Women Writers’ Group.
    The exhibit and symposium events are sponsored by the UO Libraries, the Center for the Study of Women in Society, and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at UO.

    All these events are open to the public.

    This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Tee Corinne’s life and art, and fabulous reason to have a party in her honor! I know she would have been happy and proud about the exhibit, the lecture, and the Tuesday program!

    We hope to see many women from the lesbian land community here for these events. If you have any questions about the planned festivities, please let me know.

    Linda Long
    Manuscripts Librarian
    University of Oregon Libraries
    llong@uoregon.edu

    Linda J. Long
    Manuscripts Librarian
    Special Collections and University Archives
    University of Oregon Libraries
    Eugene, OR 97403-1299
    llong@uoregon.edu
    (541) 346-1906