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Stevie Laney and ‘Very’ Magazine, Championing Accessible Erotic Art in Philadelphia

Martina talks with Stevie Laney about her body- sex- and erotica-positive magazine, "Very," which launches its 8th issue this Wednesday at Tattooed Mom! Check out this positive-energy interview and check out "Very," a different type of erotica from your grandma's or grandpa's.

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Four ‘Very’ Magazines open to colorful and artsy page spreads, on a dark wood floor.
‘Very’ Magazine spreads. Courtesy of the author

In the advent of Very magazine’s new Issue release, I sat down with creator and prolific local artist Stevie Laney to discuss her artistic vision, publication, and dreams for the future of erotic art in Philadelphia. Very, now in its second year, is a quarterly body-positive and sex-positive erotic art magazine comprised of submissions from a diverse group of artists. Where the magazine’s content is mostly visual art, a growing number of contributions take the form of poetry, essays, recipes, stretching exercises, street photography, and more–anything to do with the body and a sexy theme. Very stands for representation and the normalization and celebration of sex and bodies in the mainstream.

A magazine cover with a logo, “Very” in pink bubble letters at the top sits on a velvety purple background.
Cover of ‘Very’ Magazine. Courtesy of the artist

I first asked Stevie Laney what inspired her to start Very: Her background uniquely combines traditional and fashion illustration techniques, where figures are paramount to her artwork. Many of her pieces boast impressions of nude bodies with loose linework in ink and sparse color accents. Her fun and spontaneous style lives outside of realism, yet is staggeringly representative of real people–whether big people, small people, people of all colors, people outside of the gender binary, and, notably, sex workers. She says: “What really makes me happy about my work is when people see themselves in it. So I try to cover everybody.”

With a penchant for and broad knowledge of pornography magazines of the ‘70s and ‘80s, such as Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler – which she used throughout her arts education for figure-drawing practice – Stevie understood the need for a similar publication in contemporary times. In order to represent a larger population beyond Stevie’s individual reach, Very allows for creative community and sharing. “I enjoy collaborating because people want to see themselves. I alone can’t do all the styles and make them relatable for everyone, so having a magazine gives an opportunity to show this type of work from many perspectives, without censorship.” Stevie has reclaimed the narrative of erotic publication: a modernized, inclusive and accessible magazine that celebrates all bodies, sexual interests, artistic styles, and media. “It’s inspiring! Seeing this work and being able to distribute other people’s art feels good.”

‘Very’ Magazine page in black and white shows a line drawing of a “Gibson Girl” type with hair piled atop her head standing in a bright white spotlight like on a stage and surrounded by an inky black background.
Stevie Laney’s work shows a black-and-white drawing of a nude woman posing on a stage in a bright spotlight. Image courtesy of the artist.

I have transcribed, edited and paraphrased the following interview for flow and clarity.

Martina Merlo: What are you particularly excited about with this upcoming issue of Very?

Stevie Laney: Every issue, I do an interview like Playboy; I try to find different trades every time, and this was my first musical guest! A front-person of a queer band, I interviewed Anthony of Tony and the Kiki. I’m so excited because I’ve never interviewed a person who works in music at all, and they can sing!

Martina: What kinds of contributors and audiences do you hope to reach the bigger Very gets?

Stevie: I’m just trying to open people up to erotic art, even if porn magazines might not be their thing, and make the subject less taboo. We’ve put this thing in the gutter that doesn’t belong there. It’s not dirty; we made it that way. So I hope more and more people realize that depictions of sex and nudity can actually be very lovely.

Martina: Do you care about a distinction between pornography and erotic art?

Stevie: Words have their respective definitions, but I don’t find the word porn anymore taboo than erotic. It’s a sexy magazine: some of the drawings are not just suggestive, but explicit. I want all content included, so it’s just a matter of framing. It’s easier for people to digest an ‘erotic art’ magazine in some cases. I came up with Very for the title exactly because I didn’t want it to be so obvious– the sneakiness is both fun and helpful, given widespread censorship practices on sexual content. I’m dedicated to re-normalizing the erotic in above-ground culture: it’s the stuff people do every day– we have some relation to sex one way or another, and it’s part of our human experience.

Martina: Specifically, how do you highlight the queer human experience?

Stevie: When it comes to the queer community, watching people be who they are in an unapologetic way is just so exciting. I feel like the more queer content I publish, the more it’ll help the community see themselves in publicly-accessible art. Everybody’s seen a beautiful-looking thin nude cisgender body a billion times, so I hope to show other types of bodies in the same light because they’re all valid! And that’s the motivation behind Very: you should be allowed to explore your body and your sexuality and not be penalized for it.

Martina: What’s next for you and Very?

Stevie: In one form or another, I want Very and erotic art to have a more present space in the city. I want to create an environment that is accessible, nonthreatening, and even educational for the general population. I want the community to grow, and I know this passion project will soon take more shapes beyond the pages of a magazine.

To be one of the first to view and purchase Very Issue 8, make sure to attend the release party hosted by Stevie Laney at Tattooed Mom on Wednesday November 29th, 6-9pm.

See more of Stevie Laney’s work at Artist Stevie Laney: Body Positive Erotic Sex Art & Very Magazine – Stevie Laney Art

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