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Kansas Folk Artist M.T. Liggett Is The Real America

Updated on March 25, 2012
A comment on religion and politics
A comment on religion and politics

M.T. Liggett is an American original. Born into a sharecropping family in Western Kansas in the 1930s, Liggett has lived in or around the tiny town of Mullinville, Kansas most of his life and has been creating whimsical metal sculptures with moving parts and political bite since 1989. His art adorns the side of the road outside of town, where the Kansas wind blows the moving parts and where visitors from near and far come to enjoy a kind of informal outdoor museum.

M.T. Liggett himself is the kind of crusty old codger who shocks the church ladies and scares the wits out of little kids, but is really a kind, if eccentric old coot underneath. He's got a toilet tongue and does not suffer fools gladly. He wears bib overalls and drinks moonshine-- straight from the bottle. In short he is a character-- the kind of character that embarrasses the locals as much as he enchants visitors. Thanks to the internet, he's now garnering a world wide reputation.

Life can be pretty hardscrabble in western Kansas and I can't imagine that M.T. has had it easy. But he is that kind of individualist who turns his anger into art and whose comments on life are made in metal and are intensely personal.... isn't that what real creativity is all about?

Here, for those of you who can't make it out to Mullinville, is a selection of photos of M.T. Liggett's work.

Some pieces are comments on local people and politics
Some pieces are comments on local people and politics
Others are comments on national and international political figures.
Others are comments on national and international political figures.
Jesse Helms and Margaret Thatcher hahaha
Jesse Helms and Margaret Thatcher hahaha
Jesse Ventura and the Vatican, huh? Oh well, nice composition
Jesse Ventura and the Vatican, huh? Oh well, nice composition
I bet the local town worthies love this one :-)
I bet the local town worthies love this one :-)
My all-time personal favorite
My all-time personal favorite

Meet the Artist

Now, aren't you curious to meet the artist? He's done a couple of interviews and I was thrilled to find this video on YouTube. Be sure to watch it. You'll get an idea of the man and a sense of what makes him tick as well as a look at his metal sculpture in motion.

The man is in his seventies now and he's definitely lived a full life: served in the military and ( according to him) fathered eight children by eight different women-- several of whom are immortalized in roadside metal sculpture. He doesn't think much of Washington or of politicians and he has little patience for the religious right or hypocrisy of any sort. He's a notorious local presence and I think he rather enjoys putting a burr under the saddle of the high and mighty wherever they might be. It seems to be his calling in life.  His energy is amazing and his folk wisdom as pithy as his folk art.  

His sculptures are salty, sexy, angry and very very funny.If you ever get out to his neck of the woods, don't be a stranger-- drive by the open fields and have a look at his work. Here are the directions, courtesy of Roadside America:

South Ave and Elm St, Mullinville, KS Directions: I-235 to Wichita. Take exit 7B, then 115 miles west on US 400 to Mullinville. US 400 merges with Hwy 154 and turns into South Ave; the sculptures are on the north side of the road, on the west edge of town.

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    • profile image

      EnLydia Listener 7 years ago

      Good article...interesting artwork

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 7 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Seems like he's my kind of guy. Let there be many more like him.

      Cheers,

      TOF

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      What an interesting old codger! Thanks for introducing him to us. If I'm ever near Mullinville, you betcha I'll check out his art work!

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hi Old Firm and Jama-- yeah he's my kind of guy too and I think I'd make a special road trip to Mullinville just to meet him and see his work:-)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Wow - love this art work and creative expression. Next time I drive through Kansas, I'd love to see it in person!

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Next time I drive through Kansas I'd love to do the same-- trouble is I don't drive through Kansas very often:-) Thanks for the comment, Steph. Good to see you:-)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Not too many characters like this in the world. Thanks for introducing us to M.T. Liggett. Would love to see his art in person someday! Thanks for the introduction and especially the video.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      I like your turn of phrase and your easy way of writing. I am so pleased that Jama pointed me in this direction. It's also a good feeling to come across people with just plain old common sense and a character that makes you want to know him. His art is not for me but then what do I know? :-)

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Hey Robie...love the hub. What a character Mr Liggettis. Really enjoyed the video and his take on everything from George Bush, to gays, to abortion. I'm a great admirer of folk Art. His pieces are delightful...well, at least most of them are.:=)

      My brother-in-law makes "Whirligigs"....has made hundreds, some of them on consignment. You can see them all over Coronado Island near San Diego. They're similar to what Liggett does, only they're made of wood and they all move...very folksy, charming and a little naughty

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Peggy W-- the introduction was my pleasure. He is quite a character. There are a couple of more videos you might like in the links I've included.

      DeGreek I'm glad Jama sent you over here as I've just had a look at your hubs and you are quite the phrase turner yourself. I'm your newest fan, or follower or whatever we are calling them these days so thanks for taking the time to stop by and read and comment.

    • robie2 profile image
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      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      HI Alek-- and thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed old M.T. I bet he drives the locals crazy, but he really is an American original..... I know whirligigs --marvelous-- and I know Coronodo Island too-- Walked all over it one day and had drinks at the "Hotel del" just beautiful......I remember all the hibiscus. Lovely memories.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

      Do go on your trip! He appears to be fascinating, great hub.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Well, with all the tornados in Western Kansas this Spring I think I'll wait at least a few months-- but you never know, I just might do it..... It's 1200 miles from here to Kansas, but I've done it before and I might do it again.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      What a character! We have something similar in what's left of the east side of Detroit--https://hubpages.com/art/The_Heidelberg_Project___...

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      That's fascinating, Ralph-- interesting that people will always make art and the art of the people is always carries an authentic message.

    • profile image

      cosette 7 years ago

      fascinating. hee hee great video! i would love to talk to him sometime...he is really interesting. what a unique hub. rating UP.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      thanks cosette-- I would love to talk to him too-- quite a character. I bet he drives the locals crazy and loves every minute of it.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 6 years ago

      Enjoyed this read and this type of character and I have crossed paths many times. I might go so far as to say there could be a couple in our family. Jerilee wei might back me up on that statement.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Glad you enjoyed this, Ginn. I know this type pretty well myself which is part of why I wanted to write about M.T. I bt he really enjoyed having the Secret Service follow him around and I bet the good ladies of his small town don't like him one bit-- but his art is original and real and I like it a lot:-)

    • profile image

      KsCharles 6 years ago

      What a character! And I'll bet, too, the good ladies of his town don't like him one bit. He and his art remind me of the Civil War "artist" who sculpted (out of cement) the "Garden of Eden" in the little town of Lucas, KS. He was a real character, too, and "sculpted" his strange, strange political statements--which leave you scratching your head--for all the world to see.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hmmm KS, I'd like to know more about that Garden of Eden LOL Kansas has its share of artists and of outspoken characters as well-- I really like this guy's work and I think he is a hoot.

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