I did it my way: A trip through Abby Coe’s ‘Hot Spot’

Lit up: Abby Coe’s “Lingerie Closet,” part of her Hot Spot exhibit
Photo: Beverly Poppe

I've heard artists and even respected gallery owners say in regard to the confusion of contemporary, especially conceptual, art: "It's just art. There's nothing to 'get.'" While that might seem a grand oversimplification, applicable to some works of art and not to others, suggesting viewers need some type of Cliffs Notes to appreciate a Rauschenberg is like saying you have to know a composer's sociopolitical backstory in order to enjoy his or her compositions. It's enriching and helpful, sure, but it's not necessary (though some might argue briefs on Turrell, Flavin or McCracken would save the day).


Abby Coe's Hot Spot
Through October 10, Winchester Cultural Center Gallery, 455-7340.

I had all of this in mind after spending a good chunk of an hour with Hot Spot, Abby Coe's site-specific light installation at Winchester Cultural Center Gallery. With apologies to the artist, I ignored anything she might be saying and fell right into my own little literary-esque, three-dimensional experience. I delved wholeheartedly into what felt like an absurdist play, meandering through a peculiar environment composed of familiar objects that don't really seem familiar at all. Who could blame me?

The windows are blacked out. The door is closed. On the floor along a curved wall there are eight doilies. On each stands a cosmetic magnifying mirror covered on one side with large red sequins, onto which a xenon light shines, emitting reddish reflections onto the curved wall and creating soft, shadowy abstract images

Across the mostly empty, gray-carpeted, room is Coe's "Lingerie Cabinet," a spread of lace-covered fluorescent lights, laid out like fish, arranged for a photo after a catch.

It's like walking into the middle of a discussion, then becoming the subject. You've been invited, but you're intruding in an Alice in Wonderlandian sort of way.

My shadows mingle with the static ones. Bright lights glare like stage lights on the floor. You're part of the show, it seems, until you step to the side.

The artist succeeded in interacting with the gallery's architecture, using reflected light to engage ideas of place and home, but I went in a completely different direction. I didn't "get" it, but I loved it.

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Kristen Peterson

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