Elizabeth Stephens is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and educator. Her work has explored themes of the body, gender, sex and feminism through art for over 20 years. For the past three years, her work has been organically evolving to exploring environmental themes as well as issues around sex and sexuality.
Stephens’ field of artistic vision encompasses art that is not only intended to contribute to visual culture through the production of images, objects and conceptual artifacts, but this vision also helps imagine and generate vital, loving and diverse environments that nurture the life forms living in and around them. This is, in part, why embracing environmental art making at this stage in her career seems like the right thing to do. The issues involved in environmental art are closely aligned to those of social justice. The environment is at the base of most (if not all) social justice issues. Stephens’ work has always addressed social justice in some form therefore, the move into environmental art making although organic is highly conscious on Stephens’ part. In embracing this kind of work, many opportunities have opened up for Stephens’ work which indicates that this kind of work is timely and much needed.
Flying over the Appalachian Mountains a few years ago Stephens noticed that the normally vibrant green mountains below looked as if they were suffering from a horrible skin lesion. Something was terribly wrong. When Stephens discovered what MTR was and what it was doing, she knew that something had to be done to stop it. As an artist, Stephens’s best (and only) weapons are art, creativity and an expanded view. Along this vein of thinking Stephens and her collaborator Annie Sprinkle are developing a new field of research that they call Sexecology. Sexecology is where the fields of sexology and ecology meet and overlap.
Stephens has collaborated on multiple projects over the years and finds that collaboration is a very natural and inspiring way to work. “I like exploring ideas with others and seeing how they are transformed by multiple viewpoints, bodies of knowledge and inspiration. I also find that collaboration allows the scale of the projects to be larger than the scale of my individual projects. Most of my work for the last seven years has been in collaboration with Annie Sprinkle and our highly successful wedding performances depend upon collaboration as their foundational platform.” These performances could not take place without collaboration. The issues that this work addresses are both new and old to Stephens.