Glow: a Light Installation

Jamie McConnell Makes Whacked-Out Lamps with Retro Appeal

<em>Glow</em>: a Light Installation
Pamela Ruddick

It’s Buellton, it’s after dark, and the windows of Overnite Computer Service glow with lurid green and purple light. Passersby would be excused for thinking aliens had chosen this unassuming storefront as their earthly base. Even once you make your way inside, past dimly lit cauldrons of punch (green again), what you encounter isn’t clearly of this world. A UFO—or is it a squat chafing dish?—gives off pink light from beneath its convex lid. Nearby, brilliant blue light illuminates a glass orb filled with air bubbles, balanced atop a vintage lamp stand.

These pieces and many, many more are the creations of Jamie McConnell, who saw them in a dream two years ago, then set about making them real. Though she has no background in visual art, McConnell’s done just about everything else: she’s been a firefighter and a commercial pilot, owned a hardwood flooring company, worked in an emergency room, and built race cars. “I can do things,” she explained last Friday night at the show’s opening. “I’m not afraid.”

Artist Jamie McConnell
Leslie Holtzman

She’s obviously not afraid of the dark, either, though these pieces could be considered nightlights; each one contains light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Some are child-friendly: “Gumball Glow” takes a vintage gumball machine and replaces the confections with shattered glass lit in rainbow colors. Others—including a coat rack topped by a human head with gleaming marble eyes and a crack running from cranium to chin—are decidedly darker. Yet from the works themselves to the ambient music suffusing the space, McConnell has crafted a show that defies the darkness and silence of night. Glow is a trippy chill-out lounge filled with retro curiosities, many of which take upright shapes reminiscent of lava lamps or hookah pipes. “B” is a lumpy orange beehive topped with an antique glass insulator, while “Saturn Charged” combines claw feet, copper bowls, and flexible tubing from a hot water heater. It’s a space-age contraption worthy of a place in the Jetson household.

An exhibit case at the side of the room displays the kind of materials McConnell draws from—cocktail shaker lids, crystals, and computer chips gathered from flea markets, thrift stores, and garage sales. The show contains a few pieces that actually take on the function of their parts. “Satellite Two,” which looks like a cross between a ray gun and the Battlestar Galactica, will actually charge your iPod. It’s a trip.


Catch Glow on August 6 and 7 from 7-10 p.m. at Overnite Computer Service, 85 West Highway 246 in Buellton. Admission is free. Learn more at


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