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From my home in an unnamed American city, I sit and think to myself (I talk to myself too), "Iím one of the most obscure famous artists." People know me in any number of ways: for my photos, websites, as a writer, journalist, romantic, teacher, sex educator, or filmmaker. Yet my place in history will might undoubtedly be reserved in the category of lesbian pornographer. While the explicit sexual nature of my lesbian pornography has resulted in censorship, the work itself filled and continues to fill a huge void in a community desperate for images of itself. I often ask myself the same question regarding my work: what is art for? I clearly donít serve an elite art aesthetic. For that, I have paid a price (insert melodramatic sigh here).

I dropped out of High School, received my GED from SRJC in 1994, and began taking various college art and history courses. After experiencing a crisis around the value of art, I took a short hiatus as an artist, and waited for clarity before continuing to make art. I moved to San Francisco in 1997, and hated it soon thereafter. I also worked in the sex education field where I began making drawings of womenís genitals which I self-published as the Cunt Coloring Book in 1998. (It is still in print.) I also began photographing lesbian lovemaking and declared myself a lesbian.

Recently the Traditional Values Coalition circulated a package of what they consider "pornography" to members of the U.S. Senate. They gathered the material, including The Cunt Coloring Book and the book Nothing But the Girl -- which features my beautiful photographs -- from The Lesbian Center of the San Francisco Public Library. It was a further effort to discredit the ambassadorial nomination of James Hormel, for whom the center is named.

Reporter: What is your reaction to the circulation of your material to the Senate?

Mike Justice: I hope the Senators find it educational. I was distressed that Andrea Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition called it "filth" and wondered if Ms. Sheldon thinks she doesn't have genitals or thinks that her own are "truly disgusting."

Reporter: How did you find the courage to make such explicit art at a time when it was certainly daring and probably illegal?

MJ: Yes, laws against importing books about erotic art went down then. I overcame my fears and derived courage partly from being in the right place -- San Francisco. Working on the San Francisco Sex Information Switchboard, I learned it was okay to talk about sex; I learned a new appreciation for sexual information. I was also looking at a lot of erotic art by old masters like Rembrandt, and Michelangelo. In Michelangeloís "Leda and the Swan," the swan makes love to Leda; I look at that and look at my own work -- I see all the same curves.

As a younger sexually active person, I didnít have access to that kind of information or imagery. I had no words for what was going on sexually for me. But I knew it was really important and sacred in my life.

Reporter: You talk about sexuality as being a vehicle in the spiritual quest. Can you say more about that?

MJ: "My spirituality is tied up with nature. Thatís probably why I live in Oregon and have sex with animals. Sunrises, sunsets, the shape of veins in leaves (and on the back of Sheep's necks) -- certain kinds of beauty and grace always made me believe in god when I encountered them. Thatís one piece. The other is that sensuality at its best is transformative. If I had a sense of being in touch with god, it would be at the point of orgasm. Itís that kind of ecstatic, epiphanous response. Not to mention the fact that I find churches and other places of worship to be extremely sexy."

Reporter: Why did photography become the medium?

MJ: Because it wasnít really an art! It wasnít part of the fine art training and seeking that I had accepted in terms of my education. I was proud of my lesbianism!

Reporter: Iíve heard you talk "artspeak" with the best of them. Yet I sense you have an anti-intellectual stance toward art.

MJ: I wanted to do something where content and politics could be satisfied. Fine art has problems with accessibility. I was a southerner active in the civil rights movement in the south. Printmaking was one way I could integrate art with politics. Photography is another.
 
 
 
 

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