Betsy Odom

Second Date
uhaul pens, wood, pipe cleaners
5 x 3 x 6 in.

tooled leather, bent birch, silicone, fabric, grommets
11 x 4 x 8 in.

My work explores the ephemera surrounding displays of identity. I work with specific materials like tooled leather, sporty fabrics, chunky silver, automotive finishes, and airbrushed paints. Seen in the right context these materials become signifiers of the cultural phenomena that have surrounded my own development: Southern culture, women’s athletics, tomboys, car enthusiasts, 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 media and techniques to create my work; I use skills ranging from leather tooling to woodworking, ceramics to airbrushing, mold making to woodturning, sewing to metalworking. Although I often subvert these traditional processes, I try to stay as true as possible 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. In this endeavor, I try to embody the ghosts of women’s gym coaches, crushes on camp-counselors, unrecognized athletes, or brassy-old maids– illuminating and conflating the unique aesthetics that accompany these underrepresented cultures.

In my most recent work I have focused a lens on the pathos of sport, particularly—although not exclusively—as it pertains to women’s athletics. I exaggerate the stylized and fetishized aesthetics of athletic equipment, with its inherent relationship to the body and to culture. But I also look at sport as a symbol of desire and longing, both for human connection and for the fantasy of physical greatness. I am not a particularly talented athlete, but I often long for an understanding of the peculiar and private world of women’s athletics.

© Betsy Odom