Anne Bronte Rides Again, by Letty McHugh
Who are you and what do you make or do?
I’m Letty McHugh, artist, writer, woman, legend, cat enthusiast. As an artist, I work on long running interactive projects, generally exploring how people survive (and even thrive) in difficult circumstances. As I writer, I mostly make jokes. Across my work, I aim for a ratio of 1/3 serious art to 2/3 jokes.
'This is your inheritance' installation view, by Letty McHugh (above)
Where might we have come across your work before?
I’ve written for Oh Comely Magazine and last year I had a 3-month solo show 'This is your Inheritance' at Holy Trinity Church in Leeds*. If you live in Yorkshire it’s possible I sent you an anonymous love letter when I was a mad art student who did that sort of thing**.
*A project inspired by her Grandmother's sewing machine where Letty involved over 130 women telling stories of what textiles meant to them.
**Letty's referring to 'Me without You' a project where she wrote imaginary love letters and sent them to strangers. http://www.lettymchugh.co.uk/projects/
Do you have procedures you follow to create the right conditions to work on your art or writing or does it just flow out naturally?
I don’t think either of those things are true for me. I really wish I had procedures that I followed to get me working. I’m a chronic procrastinator, so I think about my work constantly but it’s always a battle to get myself to sit down and get on with it. My routine is something like: have idea, sell idea, put off working on idea until the deadline is scarily close, panic, panic more, cry, make idea.
Above: a page from Letty's 'This is your inheritance' book
Do you see your online presence as part of your creative practice?
Yes, completely. Some of my favourite writing is on my blog, I think the stuff I put online is the purest example of my creative practice in some ways, because it’s just me writing things I thought would be funny. I love working online because I’m essentially just an attention seeker, I make work because I want to engage with people and putting it online is the fastest way of doing that.
When did you first realise you were going to be an artist and writer?
The first time I remember wanting to be an artist was when I was 12 and my parents took me to the Tate Modern, I saw Cornelia Parker’s 'Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View', (the parts of an exploded shed strung up to recreate the moments of the explosion.) and thought ‘Artists can do whatever they want, I’m going to be an artist.’
I can’t think of a similar moment where I wanted to be a writer, but I always used to be making up stories as child. I think I worked out when I was quite young that telling a funny story was the best way to get my two older brothers attention, which was the only thing I wanted. At some point I just started writing them down.
If you could wake up tomorrow and have everything you dreamed of, what would that be like?
When I was 5 I had to write a report for school about what I wanted my life to be like when I was a grown up, it said ‘I will be living in a house by myself with a cat and no boys’. If I could wake up to my dream life it would still look like that but I’d maybe add a solo show at the V&A and a regular column where I could write whatever I wanted for somewhere well paid. Also, no Brexit.
Above: 'How do you sleep at night?' a project by Letty looking at how one's bed relates to one's emotional and mental well being.
Do you know who your fans are?
Outside of my immediate family? I’m not sure who my fans are. When I have exhibitions the largest demographic is women with good hair and funky glasses.
Who are your main influences?
I’m influenced by Guy Debord's theories, Tracey Emin’s powerful vulnerability, Sophie Calle’s fearlessness, Yoko Ono’s profound whimsy and Yves Klein’s panache.
What's the best thing they taught you at Art School?
I can’t pick one, but the two best things I learnt are: 1, If you concentrate on making work that is a true expression of yourself and brings you joy everything else will work out. 2, Don’t cut lino prints towards yourself or you will cut your hand open and bleed on everything.
Cilla Lightyear, by Letty McHugh
What's on the horizon – any projects coming up?
I just accidentally took a nine-month hiatus from my blog so I’ll be relaunching that in the next few weeks. Also, I just rigged up an exposure unit for burning screens in my Mum’s boiler cupboard and I’m about to use it in a secret project I’m very excited about. It involves screen printing and origami and probably writing about things that make me cry. I think it will start going online in January so keep your eyes peeled.
Thank you, Letty!