January 04, 2021

An Interview with Kristy Hughes

By Megan Wright
An Interview with Kristy Hughes

Can you describe your style or your work?

I make abstracted sculptures and collaged paintings.  

What led you to creativity
or making art? Describe your path to becoming artists.

We were all born with creativity, although I think many of us forget how to use it as we get older. I was a biology major in undergrad and felt unfulfilled with my classes. I had stopped drawing sometime in high school, so I took an intro drawing class for fun. Then, I took more drawing and art history, for more fun. Then a printmaking class. Printmaking is like science, it is process based, with certain techniques that must be performed in a particular order. It reminded me of being in the chemistry lab. I was hooked. I switched my major pretty late in my undergrad career, then got a MA in studio art, then MFA in printmaking. Printmaking led me to collage, which led me to painting, and now sculpture. I re-remembered my creativity sometime mid-college and never looked back.

Color seems to play a big part in your work,
why is that?

Color is a language, and it is relative. This means it can say different things, according to its placement. It’s like a code to decipher. At the same time, it is like poetry, never fully meant to be explained. The more I use color, the more I fall in love with it. The more I understand it, the more I am in awe of its mystery. This is kind of a non-answer. But, closest to the truth that I can describe when trying to talk around color.

Photograph of a colorful sculpture 

What does your typical day look like?

Almost every day is different and each day ebbs and flows according to my teaching schedule. I teach, I have meetings, I prep for classes and lectures and in between I think about my artwork. When I have chunks of time, even 20 mins. I’ll paint something or cut out a shape for a sculpture. During the school year I don’t have the luxury of full uninterrupted days in the studio. I’ve learned that if I was to wait for the “perfect” studio day, I would get so little done. So, I balance them both and they feed each other.

Walk me through how you start a new project. What do you draw inspiration from?

“Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality.”
This quote by Susan Sontag is one of my favorites and I take it very seriously. My work is born from my ability to pay attention to the world around me. It starts simply - I notice color combinations on walks. For example, the neon colors of a sunset or the red and turquoises of a pealing and chipped fire hydrant. I notice compositions that are formed from the negative space between buildings or trees. I read and pay attention to a line of poetry or gorgeous paragraph from one of the books I’m reading. I make sketches and small collages thinking about these things. A small collage becomes a large sculpture. I blow up the shapes, cut them out of insulation board, attach them to each other, apply joint compound to cover seams and to make stronger, then epoxy resin the entire thing before I paint it. At this point, I disregard the sketch and the piece takes on a life of its own. But, it always starts with the simple act of paying attention and noting what I see around me.

What’s next for you? Are there projects you want to do in the next 5 to 10 years?

Next is for my work to live outside. I need to learn how to work with fiberglass so that my sculptures will be weatherproof. I also plan to learn how to make metal bases and armature. Right now, I only make works that can be shown indoors. I am excited to see how the outside environment will affect and interact with my sculptures. 

If you could give advice to someone starting out, what would you say?

You don’t need all of the answers before you start something. You don’t even need most of them. You just need to form a question, something that creates an unquenchable curiosity. Always remember that what you do not know is a form of knowing. Form new questions and follow your curiosity. Follow it with your whole heart.