Rocky Horton’s All the Lights in My House at Seed Space is a relatively simple display: a bunch of lamps and chandeliers suspended from a black wooden lattice hanging in the middle of the gallery, and a few floor lamps plugged into a nearby wall. The ceiling lights, chandeliers and floor lamps, even a ceramic table lamp shaped like a wise old owl, comprise the titular collection of all the electric illumination in the house the artist shares with his wife, artist Mandy Rogers Horton, and their youngsters. The Horton clan has been bumping around in the dark every night since the show opened on May 2 and they’ll presumably be relying on candles and matches until the show closes on June 15. The result is both a meditative, oddly nostalgic display as well as a performance of a kind that happens out of the sight of Seed Space’s visitors.
With the entire installation hanging from the lattice in the center of the gallery, the often sort-of-crowded exhibition space is pleasantly spacious. Like a beacon, Horton’s lights – the only ones turned on in the gallery – draw viewers in from the gallery entrance, where they instinctively stand directly under the lights and look up at them – a point of view kids adopt, but adults rarely indulge. During my second visit, Seed Space’s program director, Andri Alexandrou mentioned wanting to move a bed into the space so she could lay down and stare up at the lights like she did as a little girl. The fact that the installation is just an odd collection of lights reinforces this nostalgia for childhood. One painted lamp that looks like it came from my grandmother’s house transports me back to times when I slept in a bed with my brother in the room we always stayed in when we bugged out of Detroit for a weekend with my country cousins. A little visitor apparently spotted the vintage chandelier on display and immediately declared the gallery to be “a ballroom,” launching into a dance.
One light looks like a commercial ceiling lamp from the ’80s, a glowing sphere – more or less – like an eye obscured by a cataract of dead bug silhouettes. There’s no rhyme or reason to the collected lights – some look like relatively recent Target purchases and many of them are sporting burned-out bulbs. The one that reminds me of my grandma’s house is very dusty. There’s a saying that every artist’s painting is a self-portrait. So, there’s a refreshing, revealing openness to this display of unfashionable, dusty, buggy lights fixtures just like many of the dusty, buggy lamps in the homes of many of the busy, young parents I know. The only exceptional thing about them is that they’re on display in a gallery.
Horton’s show examines the unnatural lifestyles we’ve created by our dependence on artificial illumination. But, each time I looked at these lights – and between viewings – I mostly just thought about Rocky, Amanda, and their children in the dark. More than the lights themselves, this show points most poignantly to the places, the people, and the relationships that we illuminate every time we flip a switch in our own homes.
Joe Nolan is a critic, columnist, and intermedia artist in Nashville. Find out more about his projects at www.joenolan.com.