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.