Exit interview Part 3: Abby Coe

Interview number three is with Abby Coe, who recently completed her MFA from University of Nevada Las Vegas and who–after what will surely be an epic paintball feud tomorrow night in Vegas–departs for Knoxville later this week. She will be missed, and here’s her interview.

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Your original Las Vegas dream:

I wanted to come to a city that was dynamic and weird and about as far personality-wise from my bible-belt hometown of Knoxville, TN as I could think of. I wanted to make some art and come out with my Master’s in Fine Arts.

On your connections:

Connections are great and fabulous for your career and all, but I am happy with the friends I have made. These are people that wouldn’t just include me in a show or opportunity if such a thing came along, but they are individuals that would scoop my cat’s shit if I couldn’t afford the cat sitter. They would come and jump my car if my battery died (again) in the dry desert heat. They would tell me what they really thought no matter if it was going to hurt my feelings or not without regard to the marketability of whatever I was making.

On casino executives and the media:

I could really care less. The novelty of them is kind of interesting. Where I come from Smoky Mountain Wrestlers and Evangelist preachers on Cable Access TV have more notoriety.

The popularity of poker:

Sure, whatever. It’s just another game. I’m not really a big gambler (and by this I mean I have probably gambled less than $50 in 3 years plus 2 other visits to Vegas), so I don’t think I can really speak to this. I like video blackjack okay and penny slots. John and I used to rent a hotel room across from Harrah’s in Cherokee, NC and bring a cooler of beer or liquor to drink in our room (because the Indian Reservation is dry) and walk over to play $5 in the penny slots. It would last us about 3 hours and the most fun thing about it was that they still used actual coins. I would cash out all the time just to hear all those coins come spilling out into the little buckets they give you.

What you’ll miss most about Las Vegas:

I think I already said how much I will miss the great people I have met and befriended, but it is worth mentioning again.

I will miss Davy’s Locker on Desert Inn and $4 shots and beers, and trivia night on Friday’s. I will also miss the walk there and the not-so-sober stumble back.

I will miss my apartment complex for all the strange things that I have seen there and the lovable resident regulars that I have dubbed: Wrinkle Head, Circle Puke, The Ceramicist, The Sexual Offender (because his card came in the mail with a picture and a warning), Crazy Eye, the Pacific Islander (always donned a floral sarong the minute he was home), and countless others.

I will miss people-watching while waiting for the light to change at Maryland Parkway and Flamingo.

If you’re going to miss the Eureka, his [Dave Hickey’s] favorite neighborhood casino:

Never been to the Eureka. I did, however, go to Bagelmania on Twain because I heard it had the best bagels in Vegas and you would have a good chance of spotting Dave there. I was sorely disappointed, but not because I didn’t see Dave. I know a lot of Northerners are very particular about their bagels, but I just want mine to not be toasted to the degree that it cuts the inside of my mouth. On a good note, the service was supreme and I think if you are particular about your bagels and that fish stuff people put on them, this is the place for you.

What you won’t miss about Las Vegas:

I won’t miss the intensity of the heat in August. My first August here I left a 24 pack of Diet Coke in the back of my car and heard a strange hissing noise after hitting a speed bump. I parked and went around the car to investigate. About half the cans were exploding and hissing and spewing diet soda everywhere. The other half rolled out of the open hatch of my SUV and exploded on the asphalt and on my legs and feet spraying near boiling-hot soda all over me.

What that last class at UNLV was:

I guess you could call that my Thesis Exhibition class. It seems really distant to me now, even though the exhibition just happened in March. Almost surreal. Probably because I spent all lot of time in a liminal state of high blood pressure and panic. I was sure I wouldn’t pass my defense. It was really tough. I think a lot of the things that were tough to hear were helpful and I learned from them. I don’t think I should comment on the things that I thought were tough to hear and not helpful.

What you will be doing in Knoxville, TN:

John will be working at UT Knoxville. I don’t have a job as of yet, but I did make sure that our new place would have room for me to have a work space. I’m looking forward to being able to go to affordable rock shows again. I won’t be lacking for boobies and tassel twirling as my cousin just joined a burlesque troop in Knoxville.

If you’re ready to start over:

I like the way that John put it… he said this was a new chapter, not starting over. I suppose going back to the city we both grew up in isn’t the best way to go about starting over anyway.

What kind of city you’re leaving behind:

The same weird and eccentric one that I chose to move to. I feel like I just know more of its dirty little secrets now.

If CityCenter was the right answer:

What was the question it was supposed to answer?

What’s to fear about Las Vegas in the future:

I fear one of the things that also lends Las Vegas its appeal. It is the constant cycle of tearing down, scrubbing away the evidence, and rebuilding. I worry that in this it might end up destroying some of the really great little nooks and crannies of the city.

What Las Vegas is going to miss about you:

I’m a good tipper. I donate everything I can to Saver’s. I am a diligent recycler. I am blunt and forthright with my criticism. (Other artists can appreciate this.) I know for sure Wrinkle Head will miss me as he told me once, “Girl, I would die for you.”

Image: Abby Coe, installation view, Contemporary Arts Center, Las Vegas, 2009.


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