Annie Sprinkle began her life as Ellen Steinburg, but, over time, she recreated herself as the vivacious, voluptuous, fearless Annie Sprinkle; the complete opposite of timid, shy, conservative Ellen. Annie Sprinkle is a lot of things: an artist, an activist, a scholar, a thespian, and a sex-positive feminist, just to name a few. She has an extensive portfolio of work ranging from photography, books, films, performance pieces and lectures. Annie has spent much of her life as an advocate for sex education and equal rights. Nothing about her is conventional; a former prostitute turned porn star with a Ph. D. who explores sexuality and shamelessly shares her experiences through writing, visual art, and performances while teaching others to embrace a subject society considers taboo. She is as feisty and colorful as her name suggests. Throughout her life of work, she has always striven to entertain as well as educate.
A significant part of Annie’s work has been in the performing arts, traveling around the world sharing her experiences and thoughts about sex and sexuality through her one-woman shows. Her most notable performances include Post-Porn Modernist and Public Cervix Announcement. These controversial shows have garnered wide interest as well as notoriety, prompting riots and a debate in the U.S. Senate about whether or not the government should fund “controversial art”. But, likely, such reactions are what Annie hopes for. Her method is to present sexuality in a radical, uncensored way so that it cannot be ignored.
She has written numerous books, articles, and musings, all centered on her research about human sexuality. Her writing educates readers about sexuality with her signature creative flair and accounts of her unfiltered personal experiences. Some of her most popular works include her autobiography Post-Porn Modernist and Hard Core From the Heart: The Pleasures, Profits and Politics of Sex in Performance which received the Firecracker Alternative Book Award.
Typically, Annie creates visual art in her photography studio, acting as both the photographer and the subject. Her work has been featured in books as well as national and international magazines such as American Photographer, Newsweek, Spin, and Penthouse. In addition to her work behind the lens, Annie has also posed for photographers and artists and has appeared in many magazine spreads over the years, including Hustler, Penthouse, and Playboy. Her fine art photography has appeared in galleries across the globe.
Annie’s work reaches far and wide to film, women’s studies, and theater history classes in universities internationally. Annie is also a faculty member at The School of Erotic Touch in Oakland, California. Currently she and her partner Elizabeth Stephens are working on a relatively new project called sexecology, which is a field of study “exploring the places where sexology and ecology intersect in our culture– in art, theory, practice and activism.” To teach people about sexecology, they create ecosex performance art, sexecological walking tours, visual art installations, and are working on a film called Goodbye Gauley Mountain-An Ecosexual Love Story, which focuses on the negative effects mountain top removal coal mining has had on Appalachia.
Artist: Body features one of Annie’s most popular pieces, Bosom Ballet. Bosom Ballet is a photo series that is derived from her performance piece of the same name. In Bosom Ballet, Annie stretches, pinches, squeezes, and jiggles her breasts to Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz. Also featured in the gallery is Beat Cancer Ballet A and Beat Cancer Ballet B. These collages of photos, treatment plans, and MRI scans reveal Annie’s battle and victory over breast cancer, and illustrate not only her vulnerability, but also her strength and creativity in the course of her struggle.
You can view Annie’s work at the Lexington Art League as a part of the Artist: Body exhibition. The exhibition runs from February 27th until March 27th with gallery hours throughout the week Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-4pm, Fridays 10am-8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm-4pm.
Written by Caitlin Robinson, LAL intern, Eastern Kentucky University Recreation and Park Administration student