Media Diet: Holly Hughes

A defunded, lesbian performance artist that loves Martha Stewart


| July-August 1996



She may say that meeting girls is the only the reason she performs, but the impact of Holly Hughes’ work is felt way beyond her bedroom. Even though the National Endowment for the Arts cut off her funding in 1990 because of the sexually explicit nature of her work, she continues to spin wry, sassy, and brutally honest political parables from her web of personal experience. Clit Notes (Grove Press, 1996), her new collection of essays and performance texts, chronicles her journey as an artist to find a language to express her forbidden sexual desires. Editorial assistant Rebecca Scheib caught up with her in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

What magazines do you read? 

Even though there is little hope of my having a garden in the foreseeable future and the closest I ever come to cooking is stirring up the fruit at the bottom of my yogurt container, I subscribe to a bunch of gardening and cooking magazines like Horticulture, Garden Gate, Organic Gardening, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, and Saveur. And, of course, Martha Stewart Living fills in all of the cracks in my life. I find magazines about things I actually do—like theater—or who I am—lesbian—vaguely depressing. There’s no news in those rags, just stories about gay bashing and theaters going belly up. By now that’s really not news, but what Martha Stewart’s doing with her hydrangeas is!

What books are you enjoying now? 

I have mauled several copies of Minnie Bruce Pratt’s S/HE in the last year. S/HE is made up of what I’d call short personal prose poems about Pratt’s relationship with a butch woman who is so transgender that she calls into question our definitions of masculinity and femininity. I also really like Pratt’s book Rebellion, which is a series of essays about growing up white in a small town in Alabama, and how that relates to being a lesbian and a feminist. I’m always interested when someone takes abstract ideals to which we pay lip service—”we” being people who read Utne Reader or Organic Gardening—and shows how they translate into everyday life. I’m depressed when I’m between books, but I’m a lazy reader. Since I’m a “bottom,” a book has to sweep me up and throw me on my back and have its way with me or I’m outta there pronto. I’m not passive about reading—I will lift my hips for it—but the book has got to initiate things.

Which authors have had the most influence on you?