Skip to Main Content

Political statement sculptures. M.T. walks the fence line in 2002.
Political statement sculptures. M.T. walks the fence line in 2002.

Political Art of M.T. Liggett

Field review by the editors.

Mullinville, Kansas

For over 25 years M.T. Liggett voiced his opinion to travelers along US 400 with his hand-built art. The sculptures, hundreds of them, stand three rows deep and stretch along M.T.'s former property line for more than a quarter-mile. "I'll be blatantly blunt with you," he told us. "What's out there along the highway pisses a bunch of people off."

Marilee, Honey Haired Enchantress.
Marilee the Honey-Haired Enchantress was one of M.T.'s former girlfriends.

Well, maybe a little. Former Kansas Treasurer Dennis McKinney has his face in a toilet, with a sign, "Out To Lunch." Former Governor Bill Graves is a fat, decapitated rat. A porta-potty is labeled, "Mullinville Town Council Chamber." The Kansas State Board of Education is portrayed as a head shoved up a human ass.

The term "outsider art" has been diluted by decades of academic massage and collector mainstreaming, but M.T. stayed true to his personal and caustic punk art vision.

EPA and Soviet hammer and sickle.
If you love subtlety in art, you won't find it here.

"I'm not a Libertarian. I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Democrat," M.T. told us. "I don't have any agenda." His flapping, whirling, and static metal sculptures are set on poles, some 20 feet tall. He was born on the property in 1930 and, aside from some years in the military, lived in Mullinville all his life.

M.T.'s workshop was an old barn with a dirt floor, around the corner from his pasture gallery. His tools were a plasma cutter and an arc welder. His material was metal: junked farm machinery, car parts, road signs, railroad equipment. "If I just think of something, I make it," he told us during one visit, chalking the design on the metal, then setting to work with the plasma torch. "You draw it out, cut it out, and that's it."

M.T. was a big man with ill-tempered gray hair; large, weather-beaten hands; and a sharp, gruff voice. "Most people, they ain't got no guts," he told us. "You gotta have a strong opinion or you're nothing." M.T.'s speech was as blunt as his attitude was cantankerous. "When I put up a piece of art, I don't ever ask anybody if they like it or they don't like it," he told us. "If you like it, that's fine. If you don't, I don't care."

Fence line of political art.
Offensive symbols and clownish caricatures grab eyeballs along the highway.

Some people do not like M.T. Liggett's art. Or, rather, they don't like some of his art. Everyone enjoys his windmills, gyros, and whirligigs, spinning in the prairie wind. Almost everyone appreciates his fanciful creations: his grinning dogs, ancient gods, chickens in boots. Most folks enjoy his many exaggerated representations of his former girlfriends, such as Tokyo Rose, a blonde who he met on the Tokyo Ginza when he was in the Navy; and Marilee, "the honey-haired enchantress."

M.T. Liggett and his art.
M.T. changed the signs beneath his totems as he changed the targets of his opinions.

Where M.T. ran into trouble is with his political art. He called them "totems," but really they're cartoons carved in metal: human caricatures with long, warty noses, buck teeth, pot bellies, giant feet, and balloon butts. The two President Bushes, for example, are dismissed as "bureaucratic maggots" and "political hoes." Hillary Clinton holds a communist hammer and sickle, and her body has been replaced by a large Nazi swastika.

Was M.T. worried that people might be offended? "Absolutely not," he said. "It doesn't bother me the slightest bit."

Despite his posturing, M.T. was proud of his art and enjoyed being appreciated for it. In 2016 we stopped by his workshop for an unannounced visit -- always a dangerous thrill -- but were warned away by a neighbor who said M.T. was in a particularly bad mood. So we called M.T. in early 2017. He told us we shouldn't have listened to his neighbor. "I don't like talking to people who are ignorant by choice," he said. "But if you got brains enough to talk to me, I like to talk."

Sticking out his tongue at the passing cars.

We told M.T. that his highway artwork seemed faded and rusty. He told us that he'd been in poor health, which had forced him to neglect his roadside totems (This was confirmed by Rosslyn Schultz at the Grassroots Art Center, who told us that M.T. had been warned by his doctors years ago to quit making art). M.T. said that he'd already arranged to have his artwork turned over to "thoughtful people" when he died, and that, "If they throw it away, that's their business. I won't know about it."

Nevertheless, M.T. said that dying wasn't something that he worried about, and that he hoped to put some new art out by the highway. We asked if he was inspired by America's current politics. "Man, I'll tell you," he said, "if the politics of the day inspire you, you've got to be sick in the head."

M.T. died six months later, on August 17, 2017. The Kohler Foundation is currently cataloging and restoring M.T.'s art -- nearly 1,000 pieces -- on site. The totems and whirligigs still stand out by the road, and there are plans to convert M.T.'s old workshop into a visitor center.

Also see: Uncensored Video Visit with M.T. Liggett

Political Art of M.T. Liggett

South Ave., Mullinville, KS
On the west edge of town, along the north side of US Hwy 400. M.T. Liggett's workshop is a block north, at the corner of Elm St. and Washington Ave.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights
Roadside Videos
A Visit with M.T. Liggett

M. T. Liggett - Cranky Outside Artist.

Roadside America Road Trip Archives: Feisty populist artist M.T. Liggett talks about Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush, and why he doesn't care what we show him saying in this 2002 video. Kids -- cover your ears!Go to video

Nearby Offbeat Places

The Big WellThe Big Well, Greensburg, KS - 10 mi.
Midway USAMidway USA, Kinsley, KS - 23 mi.
Backyard CarouselBackyard Carousel, Wilmore, KS - 23 mi.
In the region:
Tiny Church for President Garfield, Garfield, KS - 36 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Kansas

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Kansas.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Save Cool Vacation Destinations! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

Kansas Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Poozeum: Dinosaur Turds, Williams, Arizona (Jun 10-16, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Favorite Quirky City Sights