Hatteberg's People - M.T. Liggett

By: Larry Hatteberg Email
By: Larry Hatteberg Email

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May 16, 2010

On Hatteberg's People, M.T. Liggett of Mullinville, Kansas. With M.T. and his art, people either love him or hate him. There is no middle ground. He's the guy responsible for all the metal sculptures along 400 highway on the west side of Mullinville. Last week, he ran into a little trouble, but that hasn't stopped him, nor will it. His art is the most important thing in his life.

"I can make my thoughts known in a piece of art. What an author does with a book and words, I do with art," Liggett said.

Liggett's art is hard to miss. Along highway 400 in Kiowa County west of Mullinville, his metal sculptures gyrate, tease and taunt.

"You can make millions, and millions, and millions and have a big ranch and do all of this other kind of stuff and you're dead 10 years and everybody forgets about you. This stuff will be here in a hundred years. So I have left a legacy. I'm going to be here," Liggett said.

No one is immune, no political party left out. He is like an editorial cartoonist, using the land as paper and the welding rod as his pen.

"And if I piss you off, then I've got done what I started to do," Liggett said.

But a few days ago, he had a narrow escape. The building where he does much of his welding caught fire as he was working. His shop and tools burned.

"I'm going to rebuild,” Liggett said. “But I've got to collect my wits a little bit."

M.T. told his story several times to State Fire Marshals who were sent to investigate.

"Boom, I don't know what the hell happened. It was a boom. This wasn't in my mind, whether it knocked me out I don't know," Liggett said.

While there is no shortage of people who would like to see M.T.'s art stopped, the cause of the fire is believed to be accidental.

"Just like this fire, so what?” Liggett said. “Burn it down and I'm going to start again."

Now, lest you think, M.T. is just a local phenomena, he's not. He's been written up in the Wall Street Journal, a host of other newspapers and his work is featured at The American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore.

"I'm damn sure not going to wind up in a rest home defecating and urinating all over myself and slobbering...I ain't. That's not going to happen. I'm going to die, I hope, right over there in that shop," Liggett said.

He sees life in his own way...a way that makes some smile and others cringe.

"Some politician gets up and he tells a bunch of crap and people eat it up like an old hog goes after bucket of corn or slop. They just swallow everything these politicians tell them. And it's crap," Liggett said

Whatever you think of him and his work, he is unique to Kansas and has put Mullinville on the map in a way no other resident ever has. Even a fire can't stop him, he's simply too hot to handle.

"The only way I am set in my ways is that I'm not going to change. That's just it, I'm not going to change. I'm going to make that damned art over there in that old shop until the day I die," Liggett said.

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