Betsy Odom's Barnyard is a surreal romp on the old farm

If you're beginning to envision a hallucinatory episode of Hee-Haw, then you're on the right track. But please don't mistake the happy, Holly Golightly sensibility of this work for mindless naïveté. Odom might be young--all of 23--but she is neither naïve nor stupid. Using the phrase "Pinocchio complex" to describe her mirthful predisposition, Odom claims that she wants her work to be "good"--to be reflective of "the good things" in the world. Here Odom engages in an old concept, forcing life back into age-old tenets and a seemingly bygone belief system of art, namely the one constituted by an array of absolutes, including Virtue, Truth, Beauty and the Good. Yet her ability to succeed in this sea of absolutes arises from the way she transforms those terms: Odom turns Good into good, thereby transforming absolute into contingent. That is to say, the meaning of her work comes specifically from working with tape and other base materials. While eliciting a large audience indeed, hers is a statement very specifically bound to the low-grade everyday materials she uses to make art. Oddly, "the good" takes on a much-welcomed air of pragmatism as its creation relies on the proximity of a Home Depot. In short, Odom manages to make a potent universal statement from the oddments of the everyday.

Odom's work is at once jolly, thoughtful and gracefully young. She creates life-affirming work with a reworked yet Old World humanist sensibility--a feat quite miraculous in a world otherwise left violently injured by most human intervention.

A scene from Betsy Odom's "Barnyard" installation
A scene from Betsy Odom's "Barnyard" installation


is on display through May 29 at the Barry Whistler Gallery. Call 214-939-0242.

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