I just got back from Tee Corrine’s memorial in Oregon. It was at the Old Town Hall, a wonderful old wooden building near Tee’s home, “Poppy Seed,” in Sunny Valley. The sign over her door said “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Ten of Tee’s friends from her diverse communities spoke. And everyone sang the songs she had selected to hear when she was dying.
When I spoke, I told the story of the first time I met Tee in the middle 1960s. At the time, I owned an unusual jewelry store, which was open during the winter season on Saint Armand’s Key in Sarasota, Florida.
One day in the middle 1960’s, a thin, shy rather fragile-looking woman in her early twenties came in. She was introduced to me by her Aunt Ruth, who was a customer of mine. She showed me exquisitely carved erotic jewelry and miniature sculpture she had made in gold and silver. The work was remarkable and we carried it in the store until I left for San Francisco in 1969. Of course, she was Tee Corinne. (That was one of the better decisions I’ve made in my life.)
The next time I saw Tee was 20-plus years later. She was giving a slide show of her erotic photography at Camera Works in San Francisco. She was neither fragile, nor shy, nor especially thin. She was speaking (in her southern lady voice) powerfully, brilliantly and explicitly about her work.
We became friends around Women En Large which was then a work in progress . We knew each other for several years in this second period before either one of us made the Sarasota connection. One February in the middle 90’s we were sitting in a coffee shop in NYC in the middle of the Women’s Caucus of the Arts conference. (Tee had more or less dragged me to it and she was right.)
I mentioned Sarasota; we were both floored when we made the connection. Tee felt it was really magic. She told me that the jewelry she sold to me was the very first artwork she’d ever sold. She said it gave her a confidence abut her work that she needed very badly at that time, and that it had made a huge difference in her life. Shortly before she died, she asked me to write about our early meeting for the University of Oregon library that keeps her work.
She was a groundbreaking feminist and lesbian feminist artist, beginning with her solarized erotic photography in the 70’s. Her work continued to develop and grow in many media over the next 30 years. She was finishing a marvelous acrylic painting when I visited her a month before she died.
She was a southern lady, an artist, a teacher, a fighter, and a fabulous conversationalist. And she orchestrated marvelous conversations between her friends.
I miss our conversations.
Tee Corinne, photographer, artist, Lesbian, friendship, Sarasota, Body Impolitic