Top Ten Reasons Why We Love Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens
Why these “love artists” are making the environmental movement more sexy and fun.
From prostitute and porn star to performance artist and sexologist with a Ph.D., Annie Sprinkle has dealt with sex and love in many forms. Famous for her Public Cervix Announcement, where theatergoers were invited to examine her cervix with a speculum, and other performances in which she did a sex magic masturbation ritual on stage and made paintings with her breasts, Sprinkle’s work tipped the balance from exhibitionism into love. She and life partner, Elizabeth Stephens, whom she married in Canada in 2007, are in the seventh and final year of their Love Art Lab—a performance art, visual art and life-as-art project. We are happy to see them performing into 2011 and here’s why.
1. In an age dominated by Twitter and Facebook, they’re keeping live art alive. “Live art is essential lest we forget that we really have bodies,” says Stephens. In spite of our tech obsessions, audiences have embraced their work. “Performance artists give me something profound that no other kind of art or social networking does, ” says Sprinkle. It touches me from the inside out and makes me feel great. It’s a lot like having sex: Deeply satisfying in a way nothing else quite is.”Merryn Johns The Love Art Lab began as an experiment: Could love be stolen back from the Hallmark corporation? Could it dispel the pervasive anti-gay marriage sentiment in the U.S.? Could it roll back the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? And yet, its mission is simpler still. It’s basically “two artists in love, Beth and I, who do what we love to do, and what we find meaningful,” says Sprinkle. Follow the project at loveartlab.org. How could you resist a homepage that says, “We love you, we love you, we love you so much” as soon as you open the browser?
3. They won’t give up on marriage equality. “Six years ago,” says Sprinkle, “we went to San Francisco City Hall to get married and were told we couldn’t, the court stopped the gay weddings, so that pissed us off. That is partly why we have done 10 weddings in five years. In protest! We just want gay folks to have the same rights as our hetero friends and family. I do think we will get those rights eventually. But by then, who knows, we might both become heterosexuals again. Although we do plan to stay together forever.”
4. They’re loving environmentalism. Literally. Every year Sprinkle and Stephens stage performance art weddings but now, says Stephens, “instead of marrying each other we marry environmental entities who need our love. So, we have married the Earth, the sky, the sea, the Moon and the Appalachian Mountains.”
5. They believe in the power of protest. Love Art Lab is fighting against mountain top removal mining in Appalachia, which has destroyed over 500 mountains and 1,500 miles of streams in one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, in the quest for cheap coal. “This is a national tragedy that most people don’t even know about,” says Stephens. “We intend to keep focusing on environmental issues and bringing more love and empathy to the way that we view and treat the Earth. We have to continue this if we as a species are going to have any hope of continuing to live on this planet that we are rapidly destroying.”
6. They invent words like Sexecologist and give words new meanings, like Ecosexual. “Ecosexual was a dating term, like metrosexual. But we decided that now it means that you find the Earth erotic,” explains Stephens. “We think of the Earth as our lover and treat her/him/they with the love, tenderness and grace that you would shower upon your lover.” Sexecologist, says Sprinkle, “is a word we made up to describe a person who researches and explores the places where sexology and ecology intersect.” Yes, Deepwater Horizon definitely needed an inspection by a sexologist.
7. They apply the Hindu Chakras to New Year’s resolutions. 2010 was a Purple Year: Intuition, Wisdom, Third Eye. While 2011 will be a Silver Year: Union, Bliss, Crown. “We’re using the chakra system at the suggestion of artist Linda Montano who has used the chakras as a way to both inspire and organize her own work for the last 21 years,” says Stephens.
8. They have political pointers for the Democrats and those disappointed in them. “The Democratic Party needs a makeover,” says Stephens. “And some lessons in how to frame issues differently than the Republicans in order to differentiate themselves and their programs, define the territory and value systems that they believe in and represent. Their inability to do so cost them dearly in the midterm elections and could cost even more in the upcoming presidential election. I decided that now I’m going to join the Green Party.”
9. They’re planning an ecosexual makeover for Sarah Palin. While the idea of Sarah Palin as president is definitely “a little scary,” for Stephens, but Sprinkle has a loving plan of attack. “If more folks appreciated the Earth as a lover, they might treat her better, and have a more reciprocal relationship with her. If we could turn Sarah Palin on to the eroticism of nature, marry her to the Earth, indoctrinate her into our way of thinking and feeling, maybe she’d stop shooting all those beautiful, innocent animals and see the light. Then maybe she’d make a good president. An ecosexual, environmentally conscious, President Palin. An amusing fantasy, don’t you think?” Sounds good to us.
10. They keep performing and agitating and have no plans of quitting. 2011 is busy with a visual art exhibit called the Ecosex Manifesto, Montreal’s Women on the Edge festival, and an environmental action where the couple anticipates they might just get arrested. But most of all they hope to continue loving their other partner, Lover Earth. “We hope to spend some quality time in nature; by the sea, in the redwoods, under the stars,” says Sprinkle. “We are turned on by nature.” They’re also developing the ecosexual movement, which includes an ecosexual flag designed by Canadian artist Cindy Baker, an ecosex lexicon, clothing line and manifesto. (loveartlab.org and edgywomen.ca/en)