For the past seven years she has been working, among other things, on "Porkopolis," an indictment of the meat industry that has been made into an exhibit seen in five cities.
Her work, she says, is an effort to bring people together to make change. "I think it's like when you go up to a Coca-Cola machine and put in 75 cents and nothing happens so you kick it and shake it. It's very important to have a witness to say to, 'Look, it took my money and doesn't give out anything.'
"My work is about having a witness. Things don't change when one person sees something. It only changes when you tell somebody; then it becomes a group vision. When I do these drawings, it's like, 'Look through my eyes, so you can see it, too,' and someone sees it and says 'Yes, that happens.' "
Often described as an opponent of capitalism, she sees capitalism as its own worst enemy. "There are only two economic systems known to human beings; one is socialism and one is capitalism. Capitalism will destroy itself -- its contradictions will destroy it. Whether it will take all human beings off the face of the earth with it -- that's the question."
Among those who know Coe's work well are Baltimore collectors Jim and Susie Hill, who have been acquiring her work for some years and own both books and prints. Although he's obviously an admirer, Jim Hill has wondered aloud whether Coe sees anything at all in the world to celebrate.
Reason for celebration
She doesn't hesitate to take that one on. "The fact that I do this work is the celebration, because to get this work published -- I don't know if you can truly comprehend how difficult this is. Magazines and newspapers don't want to see art work about slaughterhouses and radiation. To get something published is very difficult, and not just for me individually. When I see something in print that's about reality, I feel good."
And despite the fact that she depicts human beings doing horrible things to one another, she maintains that most people are not only good, but too good for their own good: "People work in soup kitchens and work to ameliorate the conditions of others all the time, but it's not particularly newsworthy. In Bosnia it's never stressed how people are working together. That's not the emphasis.
"How come we've survived this long? Because we cooperate. If we didn't cooperate with each other, the human race would have been dead centuries ago. In fact, and this is a peculiar thing, we're too good. That's how come we're exploited by a tiny minority of corporations who do what they want. We allow it to happen. We cooperate. That's our nature -- it's not warlike."