My work explores the ephemera surrounding displays of identity. I work with specific materials like tooled leather, sporty fabrics, cork, graphite, thick silver, and airbrushed paints. These materials signify the cultural phenomena that have surrounded my own development: Southern culture, women’s athletics, tomboys, hobbyists, fantasy, or camp. The aesthetics of these groups, although rooted in functionality, often serve to reinforce embedded messages about gender, class, race, and sexuality. I attempt to use a combination of earnest craftsmanship and humor to extract and subvert these messages, creating objects that entertain a fantasy of moving freely among social groups and confronting the contradictions therein.
I employ a variety of techniques to create my work; I use skills ranging from leather tooling to woodworking, ceramics to airbrushing, sewing to metalworking. Although I often subvert these traditional processes, I try to stay true to the original crafts I reference. I fully engage in the “hubris” of making, examining the ways a well-crafted object can point to a larger sense of pride, value, and identity. I direct my own “pride in making” towards the creation of specific objects with symbolic, romantic, and humorous meaning.
Betsy Odom (b. Amory, Mississippi) received her MFA from Yale University School of Art and her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including a DCASE Grant, Illinois Arts Council Artist Grant, and West collection Acquisition Prize. Recent solo and group exhibitions include Everlast at Corbett vs. Dempsey, Let’s Be Honest at 4th Ward Project Space in Chicago, Oh No at Terrain Projects in Oak Park, IL, and Freedom Culture at The Journal Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.