Tessa Hughes-Freeland


This month at MoMA, my dear friend, deeply respected by her peers, is rightfully garnering long-overdue recognition for her seminal, pioneering and transgressive film work. With a take-no-prisoners wit and acerbic Brit cool, this diminutive wild-child was an intimidating force when we met in the East Village decades ago. Our evolutions over time have been anything but parallel but our paths have converged into an unexpectedly treasured friendship that feels like family. 

Tessa’s work in art and film is what binds and informs her relationships with her upstate community, as it does in the city, but the necessary connectedness with nature; planting, gathering firewood, collecting apples and shoveling snow, for example, have enriched and expanded the vocabulary. Even as she continues to mine the dark side in her films, a current portrait of Hughes-Freeland must also allow for apple pie, wasp nests, bones, blackberries, wood fires and a big sky view.


Intro by Samm Kunce

Upcoming events at MoMA

3.23.18 7.00 p.m Transgressive Shorts, 1979- 1994.

3.24.18 4 p.m  57 Varieties

3.24.18 7:00 p.m Spirit of the Eighties

Photos by Tessa Hughes-Freeland


What is your idea of perfect happiness? Feeling in perfect accord with the elements.

What is your greatest fear? To be burned alive!

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Lack of order.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? Dismissiveness.

Which living person do you most admire? Malala Yousafzai.

What is your greatest extravagance? Excessiveness.

What is your current state of mind? Reflective.


What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Decency, of course!

On what occasion do you lie? Only when absolutely necessary.

What do you most dislike about your appearance? The ageing part.

Which living person do you most despise? No comment.

What is the quality you most like in a man? Understanding and a sense of humor.


What is the quality you most like in a woman? An adventurous energy and a sense of humor.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? None. I would like to use more words.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? Being outside when it’s not cold. My son, & husband.

When and where were you happiest? Anytime when I can sit on the banks of a river. Also, the day I learned I was going to have a baby.

Which talent would you most like to have? To be able to speak every language in existence.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My height, 

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Staying alive.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Either a bird or a mermaid or a man.

Where would you most like to live? In a luxurious house near the Mediterranean.

What is your most treasured possession? My dog; and a tiny little pouch inside which is a tin elephant, which my mother gave me; and a dried Kombucha mushroom enveloping a romantic pledge written to me by my husband, alongside a very special stone.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Being in a vegetative state and unable to communicate.

What is your favorite occupation? Visionary.

What is your most marked characteristic? My nose and my hair.

What do you most value in your friends? Their love and kindness.

Who are your favorite Artists? Bruce Conner, Kenneth Anger, Max Ernst, David Bowie, Aldous Huxley, David Wojnarowicz, Luis Frangella, Terence Koh, Walter Robinson, Yoko Ono, Jonas Mekas, Jean Cocteau, Michelangelo Antonioni, Luis Buñuel, Maya Deren, my son. There are more.

Who is your hero of fiction? Athena, Peter Pan, Alice [in Wonderland].

Which historical figure do you most identify with? I really have never thought about it. Maybe Emmeline Pankhurst or any rebellious female.

Who are your heroes in real life? The Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Great Britain and Firefighting Volunteers everywhere.


What are your favorite names? I’m very happy with my own name.

What is it that you most dislike? Mean and hostile people.

What is your greatest regret? Missed opportunities.

How would you like to die? Instantly.

What is your motto? I don’t really have one but “Work of Each for Weal of All” is a motto under which I was taught.