Is that a hole in your saddle, or are you just happy to see me?

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Ive Got the Horse and Shes Got the Saddle
  • Betsy Odom
  • "I've Got the Horse and She's Got the Saddle"
If there's a way to be reverently irreverent, Betsy Odom has found it. At first glance, her piece "I've Got the Horse and She's Got the Saddle" is a beautifully executed leather work—detailed, delicate, precise. On closer inspection, that oblong aperture in the center of the saddle starts to look a little bit like a vulva. Then you think about the title again. Then you get it.

"There's some adolescent humor in my work," Odom says. "And a touch of dirty old man."

Odom works with objects rooted in functionality—saddles, softball gloves, canteens—and in reimagining those objects, explores the ways in which they transcend function to represent larger ideas about who we are. Growing up in Mississippi, Odom was surrounded by traditional conceptions of identity. "Leather, for example, is something you see all over the south and it's this very cowboy thing, a butch thing, a masculine thing," she says. "But when you really look at it, it's so floral, dainty, and sexy." These are the kind of contradictions that fascinate Odom. In faithfully executing traditional processes in unexpected ways, she's appropriating visual language in an effort to start a new conversation.

Double Whistle
  • Betsy Odom
  • "Double Whistle"

The power of Odom's work lies in her ability to acknowledge cultural clichés and address them in a way that's both tongue-in-cheek and earnest. Her piece "Second Date," featuring two U-Haul pens linked by pipe cleaner, is a nod to a well-known lesbian joke (Q: What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A: A U-Haul). And while it's funny, it's more than a sight gag. The wax and wood work is beautifully executed and the overall feeling the piece conveys is one of levity, not mockery. Odom takes such care with her objects that her intent is never in question—it's high craft employed in an effort to explore meaning, and it's less subversive than it is hopeful.

Second Date
  • Betsy Odom
  • "Second Date"

"I'm taking existing materials and changing them into the reality I'd like to see," Odom says. "It's fantasy."

Bulldog 30
  • Betsy Odom
  • "Bulldog 30"

On the subject of fantasy, Odom's work will be featured in a group show, "Slippery Slope," which opens at Woman Made Gallery this Friday and "features work that recognizes and adopts pornographic aesthetics and conceptual modes."

"I'm usually wary of these kind of shows because I've seen so many bad art shows about sex," Odom says. "People think they're about sexuality but they're just about sex. This show isn't like that. It's thoughtful, it's solid. Not at all as dirty as I would have expected."

Sarah Nardi writes about visual arts on Tuesday.

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