Yantras of Womanlove, series, circa 1982. Tee A. Corinne papers, Coll 263. University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives. https://scua.uoregon.edu/repositories/2/archival_objects/593624 Accessed March 23, 2023.
Tee Corinne (1943 – 2006)
United States of America
Tee Corinne, born in St. Petersburg, Florida, 1943, was a prolific lesbian writer, artist, sex educator, historian, and feminist, famous for her content which explores the intersections of feminism and sexuality.
At a young age, Tee was introduced to the visual arts by her mother, who taught her the basic principles and techniques of art, and by her eighth birthday she started carrying a camera. Graduating from FT. Lauderdale, Florida, winning the school’s art award and National Journalism award, she realised she was attracted to both women and men. In 1965, she graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Art, and in 1968 – returning from backpacking and teaching across Europe – she earned a Master of Fine Art from the Pratt Institute.
Turning 27, Tee realised that despite her art education allowing her to depict the male genitals, it did not allow her to depict her own: ‘I was seven and looked, using a mirror, at my body between my legs. It was confusing. I was shocked, somehow, at the formlessness of what I saw. What did I expect? I don’t know. I didn’t look again until I was twenty-seven’. She would begin in the winter of 1970 to draw her genitals, hiding them from her husband, later destroying what she had made. After her divorce, and upon joining lesbian groups in 1973, she created drawings of ‘any women who would let’ her, making copies to distribute through local women’s bookstores. By November 1975 she turned these drawings into a colouring book called the C**t Coloring Book, which she self-published. Produced with imagery of vulvas, the book is an icon of queer feminist activism, with its reclamation of labial imagery ‘claiming personal power for women’. During the same year Tee came out as a lesbian, remaining with her then-partner Honey Lee Cottrell until 1977.
Tee marked her breakup with Cottrell as ‘one of the most difficult winters [she] had known’, with her most recent endeavour, the photobook Yantras of Womanlove: Diagram of Energy (1982), which she had started in the spring of 1978, providing her the solace and comfort she desperately needed. Her work strove to be inclusive of all women, with Yantras of Womanlove solidifying this message; the erotic intimacy of the women depicted, tenderly embracing in joy and love, forms a mesmerising, kaleidoscopic beauty of entwined bodies. The majority of the images utilise the solarisation technique, giving each subject an eternal, enrapturing glow. One image depicts an able-bodied and disabled women embracing each other, depicting their relationship with care, joy, and intimacy.
‘What excited me about the pictures I was making was the portrayal of grace and beauty, coupled with the tang of traversing forbidden territory.’
In 1977, Tee researched the history of lesbian imagery in the fine arts, publishing her findings in two ground-breaking collections: I Am My Lover (1978) and A Woman’s Touch (1979). This scholarly work was sorely needed – as Tee remarked, ‘the lack of a publicly accessible history is a devastating form of oppression. Lesbians face it constantly.’ Tee’s scholarly and artistic work increased the visibility of queer women, celebrating womanhood, their intimate relations, disrupting the male gaze, and disturbing patriarchal ideas of femininity through depictions of intimate beauty and erotic joy.
Tee’s final work was Scars, Stoma, Ostomy Bag, Portacath: Picturing Cancer in Our Lives. The work was created in partnership with Beverly Brown, who had been in a relationship with Tee since 1989. Beverly had been diagnosed with cancer and no-one was certain how long she had left to live. Her final piece would be an homage to their relationship; their creative collaboration was displayed via their nude bodies in solarized colour, displaying the anxiety and anger of the unknown cataclysmic events which could take hold of their life, while eloquently depicting their love and passion for each other through every portrait. Tee would complete the work just before her own untimely death on 27th August 2006 at the age of 62.
When Tee was asked in an interview ‘Why write about the erotic?’, her eloquent three-word reply, ‘Because it’s real’, could not be better said. Her work will forever be a cornerstone in LGBTQIA+ history, a hallmark of feminist activism, and an excellent source of validation for queer women. Her most famous work the Cunt Coloring Book is still in print today, giving queer women the joy of erotic exploration in a relatable form. Tee donated her work and papers to the University of Oregon Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives, where they are now available for research.
Woman in Wheelchair with Able-bodied Lover, variations from A Woman’s Touch and Dreams of the Woman who Loved Sex, circa 1979, Box: 86, Folder: 5; Box: 123, Folder: 24-27. Tee A. Corinne papers, Coll 263. University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives. https://scua.uoregon.edu/repositories/2/archival_objects/189999 Accessed March 22, 2023.