My Fish, Me and You, 2005, a highlight in the second edition of Phillips Summer School, is an interior scene, that retains the imaginative nature of her landscapes but has a more intimate and personal feel. She chose to focus on interiors early on in her career; she has the freedom to add in artistic idiosyncrasies she observed from history, being able to experiment and paint a "detailed Renaissance painting on top of a Bridget Riley-esque wallpaper," as the artist herself was quoted by Rachel Reese for Painter's Table, online. Having a wide source of visual references means Hughes exercises control over the entire composition — she knows exactly what she wants you to be looking at. The head of the swordfish is depicted off the picture plane. A self-portrait, stylized as a painting within the painting, is diminutive — yet front and center. The scene opens to another room in the rear, and yet it is blocked by the front wall. This playfulness with depth has persisted through her work, even as her preferred subject matter has gone from interiors to human figures to her current focus on landscapes. It's not always easy to decode her riotous, vibrant paintings, but it's certainly a fun time trying to interpret what it all means.
Clearly, the market sees the appeal as well. In early 2017 and late 2016 seasons combined, a painting of an interior scene would sell for an average of about $6,400 USD. Just a couple months later in May, comparable paintings in subject matter and dimension sold at major auctions, with final sale prices achieving results up to 700%+ above the pre-sale high estimates. All of this is in no small part due to the Whitney Biennial last year, where she was given a room to exhibit her vibrant and imaginative landscapes. Though many artists' inclusion in a Whitney Biennial has often created only temporary upticks in auction value, for Hughes, the appeal has continued to hold. I can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve.