Elizabeth Stephens

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Elizabeth M. Stephens
Born (1960-11-18) November 18, 1960 (age 59)
Other namesBeth
EducationB.F.A., Tufts University (1986)
M.F.A., Rutgers University (1992)
Ph.D. UC Davis (2015)
OccupationArtist, sculptor, film maker,art professor, performer, professor, Chair of the Art Department at UC Santa Cruz
EmployerUC Santa Cruz
Notable work
SexEcology, Love Art Laboratory
Spouse(s)Annie Sprinkle (2007 - present)

Elizabeth M. "Beth" Stephens (born November 18, 1960) is an American artist, sculptor, film maker, photographer, professor and Chair of the Art Department at UC Santa Cruz. Stephens, who describes herself as "ecosexual", collaborates with her wife since 2002, ecosexual artist, radical sex educator, and performer Annie Sprinkle.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Stephens was born in Montgomery, West Virginia on November 18, 1960. Her family co-owned Marathon Coal-bit company. She grew up in Appalachia, moving to Boston, New Jersey, and later to San Francisco.[2]

Stephens studied Fine Arts at Tufts University, The Museum School, and Rutgers University. She worked with Martha Rosler and Geoffrey Hendricks[3] in her graduate education. She has been a professor at UCSC since 1993, chaired the department from 2006 until 2009 and is currently the chair again.[4]

In December 2004, Stephens committed to doing seven years of art projects about love with her wife and art collaborator, Annie Sprinkle. They call this their Love Art Laboratory. Part of their project was to do an experimental art wedding each year, and each year had a different theme and color. The seven-year structure was adapted to their project by invitation of artist Linda M. Montano.[5] Sprinkle and Stephens have done seventeen art weddings, fourteen with ecosexual themes. Critics relate the project to contemporary political debates including marriage equality,[6] ecofeminism, and the environmental movement.[2][7][8] Critics also note that Stephens' work explores and challenges the validity of the boundary between what is "art," and what is "pornography."[9]

Starting with their 2008 performance wedding to the Earth, Stephens and her partner Annie Sprinkle became pioneers of ecosexuality, a kind of earth-loving sexual identity, which states, “The Earth is our lover.” Their Ecosex Manifesto proclaims that anyone can identify as an Ecosexual along with being “GLBTQI, heterosexual, asexual, and/or Other.”

Most recently Stephens has produced and directed two feature documentary films with Annie Sprinkle: Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure (2017) and Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story (2013),[10] a film addressing Mountaintop removal mining near her birthplace and its effects on the environment and nearby communities.[11]

Her work has been shown internationally, including at Museum Kunstpalast (Düsseldorf), El Ojo Atomico Antimuseo de Arte Contemporáneo [12] (Spain), Museo Reina Sophia (Madrid), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 53rd Venice Biennale, and Documenta 14.

In 2017, Stephens and her wife/collaborator Annie Sprinkle were official artists in Documenta 14. They presented performances and visual art, lectured, and previewed their new film documentary, Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure.[13][14]



  • 2017 Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure
  • 2013 Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story
  • 2006 Exposed; Experiments in Love, Sex, Death and Art
  • 2006 Orange Wedding Two
  • 2006 Red Wedding One
  • 2005 Kiss
  • 2004 Lüba; The Mother Teresa of Art
  • 1992 Do You Mind?
  • 1989 Interviews with Oaxacan Women
  • 1989 Women Eating


  • 2017 Documenta 14: Daybook, eds. Laimer, Quinn, Adam Symczyk, Prestel Press, Munich-London-New York, 2017, Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, April 24 pgs 19-20.
  • 2010 Post Porn Politics; Queer_Feminist Perspective on the Politics of Porn Performance and Sex_Work as Culture Production, Post Porn Brunch, Elizabeth M. Stephens, Annie M. Sprinkle and Cosey Fanni Tutti, ed. Tim Stüttgen, B_Books, Berlin, Germany pages 88–115
  • 2008 Live through This; On Creativity and Self Destruction, Double Trouble in the Love Art Lab: Our Breast Cancer Experiments. ed. Sabrina Chapadjiev, Seven Stories Press, New York, pp 105–117
  • 2004 Interview of Annie Sprinkle for Women and Performance — 20th Anniversary Issue, New York University Press
  • 1998 Looking Class Heroes: Dykes on Bikes Cruising Calendar Girls The Passionate Camera: Photography and Bodies of Desire


  • 2017 Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure
  • 2013 Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story
  • 2011 Purple Wedding to the Moon, White Wedding to the Snow
  • 2010 Purple Wedding to the Appalachian Mountains
  • 2009 Blue Wedding to the Sky/Sea Video
  • 2008 Green Wedding Four to the Earth
  • 2007 Big Nudes Descending a Staircase
  • 2007 Etant Donnees
  • 2007 Yellow Wedding Three
  • 2006 Exposed; Experiments in Love, Sex, Death and Art
  • 2006 Orange Wedding Two
  • 2006 Red Wedding One
  • 2005 Kiss
  • 2004 Lüba; The Mother Teresa of Art
  • 1992 Do You Mind?
  • 1989 Interviews with Oaxacan Women
  • 1989 Women Eating


  • 1987 Boit Award
  • 2014 Rydell Fellowship
  • 2019 Eureka Artist Fellowship


  1. ^ Toronto Life: Double Exposure Archived February 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b McSpadden, Russ (June 27, 2013). "An Interview with Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle". Earth First! Journal. Retrieved November 4, 2013. Following her artistic dreams, she left the trappings of racism and heterosexism in Appalachia to New York and San Francisco where she married the Earth, the Sea and Annie more than fifteen times.
  3. ^ "Brooklyn Museum". Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  4. ^ Bacalzo, Dan (April 30, 2007). "Exposed". Theater Mania. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  5. ^ Benn, D. (2006). "Annie Sprinkle on the Adult Star Path of Fame: 43 Stars Laid in New Jersey". Porno News Network.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Buckner, Clark. "I Do". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 39 (17). Retrieved November 4, 2013. the artists make their personal lives public and, in so doing, challenge the policies of the state. Stephens and Sprinkle refuse to be denied their right to marry and lay claim to it on grounds that exceed the authority of the government. They present marriage as a cultural institution shaped by interpersonal dynamics and demonstrate the power of groups to construct communal bonds and systems of meaning on their own terms. In the process, they thematize the art already at work in social institutions – and in marriage and gender roles in particular.
  7. ^ Khimasia, Anna (September 15, 2011). "Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens". Canadian Art. Archived from the original on 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2013-11-04. Each Sprinkle-and-Stephens wedding stresses not only sexuality and the environment, but also collaboration, participation and community. With more than 60 local, national and international performers and artists, and a technical and production team of 30, the Ottawa nuptials were also a tribute to performance in its broadest sense. The 300-plus guests were invited to participate by marrying the snow; wedding rings were provided in the afternoon’s program, and guests were encouraged to make individual vows to the environment.
  8. ^ Dickinson, Peter (2010). World stages, local audiences: Essays on performance, place and politics. Manchester University Press. pp. 116–124.
  9. ^ Dennis, Kelly (2009). Art/Porn, A History of Seeing and Touching. Berg Press, New York, NY. pp. 71, 172.
  10. ^ ""Goodbye Gauley Mountain" (2017) - film website".
  11. ^ Archer, Greg (August 15, 2013). "Goodbye Gauley Mountain: One Of The Most Seductive Environmental Documentaries Of The Year". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 4, 2013. In between, the audience is offered a heartfelt look at the people, the towns, the companies responsible for the drama and more. Although Stephens narrates the story, the duo produced, directed, and star in the film together. But it's Stephens who gives the film much of its heart. Part autobiography, part coal mining history, and part performance art soiree, the sobering mix of honesty and playfulness is downright infectious.
  12. ^ Ruiz-Rivas, Tomás (February 18, 2006). "Love Party 2". Archived from the original on January 8, 2014. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  13. ^ Theobald, Stephanie (2017-05-15). "Nature is your lover, not your mother: meet ecosexual pioneer Annie Sprinkle". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
  14. ^ "Video: "Ecosexual Walking Tour" of female porn activist Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens in Kassel during documenta 14". Retrieved 2018-01-14.

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