Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Hughes graduated from Kalamazoo College in 1977 and moved to New York City two years later to become a feminist painter. She worked as a waitress to support herself but felt unfulfilled, later writing: "Why had I moved to New York City to live in an even crummier apartment and do the same things that I was doing in Kalamazoo?" She saw a poster promoting a "Double X-rated Christmas party" to be held in the basement of a Catholic church. There she found lesbian women stripping, kissing booths, and a highly sexual atmosphere. She eagerly attended many such parties, became involved with the group and began doing theater with them because "that's what they were doing". Hughes' first performance at the Women's One World Cafe (Wow Cafe) in the early 1980s was a piece called "My Life as a Glamour Don't", about various fashion mistakes. She followed this up with "Shrimp in a Basket" and then her breakthrough Well of Horniness (1983). At the WOW Cafe, Hughes felt that she was able to "tell the stories she so desperately wanted to be told as a child."
Hughes wrote, directed and performed in Dress Suits to Hire (1989). Focusing on the subjects of sexuality, masturbation and Jesus, her plays usually explore issues that she confronted as a young woman in college. In 1990 Hughes earned national attention as one of the so-called NEA Four, artists whose funding from the National Endowment for the Arts ("NEA") was vetoed. She addresses the NEA conrtoversy in her play Clit Notes.
In 1996, Hughes released perhaps her most famous and influential performances: Clit Notes Much of this work can be viewed as autobiographical. In Clit Notes, Hughes performs several roles: herself at different ages, her mother, and various lovers that she has had. This is Hughes' way of showing that her life and her art are one in the same and exist in a symbiotic relationship. Her writing is a way for Hughes' to explore herself and to understand the events that have shaped her life, often using her writing to escape from elements that she perceives as repressive. She started her career as a performance artist in O Solo Homo (1998). It has been argued that she is influenced by Sam Shepard.
Hughes works as an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Art & Design. In 2010, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Holly Hughes, 1988, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123956)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digital
Clit Notes: A Sapphic Sampler by Holly Hughes
Paperback: 214 pages
Publisher: Grove Press; 1st edition (March 11, 1996)
Amazon: Clit Notes: A Sapphic Sampler
Obie Award–winning performance artist and playwright Holly Hughes takes the reader on a personal tour across America with visits to Michigan’s Mystery Spot, the floor of the U.S. Senate, and New York’s WOW Cafe, where notions of theater and femaleness are taken apart and put back together.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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