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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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