April 7th, 2006


Paint a vulva picture

In 1975 artist Tee Corinne first published her Cunt Coloring Book. "In 1973 I set out to do drawings of women’s genitals for use in sex education groups," Corinne explains. "I wanted the drawings to be lovely and informative, to give pleasure and affirmation. I organized the drawings into a coloring book because a major way we learn to understand the world, as children, is by coloring. As adults many of us still need to learn about our external sexual anatomy."

The coloring book has been continuously in print ever since, although in 1981, following a flash of cunt-roversy, it was briefly retitled "Labiaflowers". It sold almost nothing under the new title, and quickly reverted. It's still listed as a medical resource on women's health websites, like Our Bodies Ourselves. But it's also a cult art book; I recently saw it on display in the window of trendy Williamsburg booksellers Spoonbill and Sugartown. You can also buy it at Powells in Portland, where it's housed, appropriately enough, at the Quimby warehouse.

I mention this because I'm scheduled to sing for twenty minutes or so on Sunday April 16th at an event at PS1 called Coloring Book: An Interactive Project. It's been organised by Jen DeNike, one of the four artists I'm living with in an industrial loft out in Bushwick. The event runs from 2pm to 5pm. It's "an afternoon of coloring-in and creativity", free if you buy a museum ticket. (PS1 currently has shows by Wolfgang Tillmans and others.) People will mostly be coloring in images based on the work of Tracey Emin and Edvard Munch. (I think I'll have to sing my song "An Inflatable Doll", which mentions Munch.) Also performing is Stephen Tcherepnin, who used to be in The Gongs, the Partch-like group I met at Oberlin College and signed to American Patchwork.

I went to an opening (so to speak) last night on Crosby Street. I was talking with Jen and this funny uninhibited Mexican guy, and mentioned the Cunt Coloring Book. Jen had never heard of it, but me and the Mexican launched off on a riff about whether you'd turn the labia into flowers or just colour them all in the same shade of pink, for medical realism. "Or purple, if they're black girls," said the Mexican.

This being America, of course the coloring book has been a political weapon. In 1997 Bill Clinton proposed James Hormel as America's first openly gay US ambassador. The Traditional Values Coalition sent the Cunt Coloring Book, along with a pack of crayons, to all one hundred US senators, noting that it was available in Hormel's Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library. It's not recorded whether any of the senators actually coloured the cunts in, or what colour of crayons they picked, but the protest (and vociferous complaints from Trent Lott and John Ashcroft) failed: in 1999 Hormel became Ambassador to Luxembourg.