Sex Stories: Wonderlust, by Sarah Anne Johnson

Editor Shenyah Webb, Editor's Choice, December 2nd, 2014

Sex in art or pornography?

sarah anne johnson sex stories nailed

“Sex Stories” is a regular NAILED column in which all kinds of people write about sex. Read the previous “Sex Stories,” here.

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I was listening to a shitty DJ on the radio the other day talking about how “disgusting” it is to be a nudist and that nudity in art is “worser.” Yep, “worser.” After many mornings of listening to my classic rock station, I know this dumb-ass DJ looks at pornography, I just know. Please bear in mind that I have no personal judgments against pornography.

At this point, I turned off the radio and began to have a very heated conversation with my steering wheel. Why is pornography acceptable to someone who thinks nudity in art is “worser than disgusting!?” Who draws that fine line between SEX shared through Art and SEX as pornography?

SEX in Art is often presented in a way that feels private, intimate, and vulnerable. The viewer is the voyeur, an invisible fly on the wall. When a piece of work transgresses the boundaries between private and public territories, when it turns into a performance, this is when it becomes controversial. But then isn’t performance art? This is one example of where that fine line exists.

Below is a gallery of images from Sarah Anne Johnson’s Wonderlust series. When Johnson created this series of photographs, she queried her network of friends and their friends. Those who were on board with this project opened their private spaces and shared their most intimate moments of sleeping, fucking, masturbating, kissing after sex, and even self-doubt.

She then manipulated her prints to “visually communicate the intangible but palpable emotional aspects of the physical interactions depicted in the photos.” With the use of scratching, burning, paint, glitter, and collage techniques, among others, she masks her subjects and creates a privacy to their identity and sexual acts.  Although her images are altered, the layers added and torn away by Johnson help to convey a sincere honesty in each intimate moment.

The following gallery of images are all chromogenic prints from 2012 and 2013. Other mediums used to alter the prints include gold leaf, collage, photospotting ink, oil paint, glitter; and ripping, incising, sanding, or burning the print.

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sarah anne johnson art nailed magazineCanadian Artist Sarah Anne Johnson (1976) received her BFA from the University of Manitoba in 2002, and went on to complete her MFA at The Yale School of Art in 2004. Johnson’s work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally. Currently she lives and works in Winnipeg. She is represented by the Julie Saul Gallery in New York City.

All images courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery.


Shenyah Webb

Shenyah Webb is a Portland-based visual artist and musician. She has been with NAILED Magazine since its inception in 2012 and has served as the Arts Editor and a Contributing Editor since its launch in 2013. A Detroit native, she attended The College for Creative Studies, where she focused on Fine Art and Industrial Design. She is currently enrolled in a Somatic Expressive Arts Education and Therapy training program, studying under Lanie Bergin. You can learn more about Shenyah here. (