by Laura Calhoun
I first discovered Kathie Odom’s work on Cabell Gallery’s website. Shenandoah was looking for art to feature in our spring issue at the time, so I brought Odom’s website to the attention of our editor, R.T. Smith. He related most to the subject matter of old buildings, a recurring theme throughout Odom’s work, and asked me to contact the artist. Within twenty minutes, I was talking with Mr. Odom, Kathie’s husband and assistant who was kind and open to the idea of featuring Kathie’s work in Shenandoah. A week later, after discovering that Cabell Gallery was located a few hundred feet from the Shenandoah offices, a deal was made.
Kathie Odom is from Knoxville, Tennessee, and has received many awards from plein air events across the country, including in states like Arizona and Vermont. Her painting style is described as “nostalgic impressionism,” easily identified by the bright earth tones and daydream-like quality of Kathie’s work. One painting R.T. Smith and I quickly agreed upon including is Sabbath (oil on linen, 30 x 40).
The church, an aging landmark in comparison to the field, is a reminder of days gone by in the countryside. Growing up in rural Appalachia, it seemed there were enough churches to individually accommodate each person who lived there. The juxtaposition of the dilapidated church and the lush, green field seems to make a statement about man and religion. Though we build churches as a symbol of a higher being and eternal life, the buildings themselves are anything but eternal. The life surrounding this church is what holds it up, the luscious hill steadying the weak foundation. I see this as a statement about religion in general – the foundation of a religious building exists not within its walls, but in the life which occupies the area within and around it.
Besides the theme of religion, Sabbath captures a stereotypical vision of Appalachia. The cow standing an equal distance from a barn and a church with no paved road or parking lot anywhere in sight. After religion, southerners worship farming, a common way of life for the people of rural America.
The painting is entirely bright, except for the lone cow in the foreground. To someone unfamiliar with rural life, this may be interpreted negatively, the cow viewed as a blemish on the beauty of the landscape. A viewer more familiar with rural life, however, may see the black cow as an enhancement to the landscape. Farming is not a lifestyle that affords luxuries; it is comprised of good days and bad days. Farmers learn to appreciate the bad days, the difficult growing seasons, and the unpredictability of nature. Just as the dark coloration of the cow strengthens this landscape, the hardships of farming make the rewards even sweeter.
Whether you grew up in rural America, there is some element of nostalgia in this painting with which you can relate. The colors are reminiscent of a long summer day, the kind where you played outside on your tire swing as a child, when your only concern was when to come inside for supper. The simplicity of the painting reminds the viewer of a simpler time. Appalachia, the embodiment of simpler times, provides the perfect scene to depict this sentiment.
I looked for a poem to complement the ideas gathered from this painting, but realized that these thoughts are best expressed through visual art. Paintings allow the viewer more subjectivity – the meaning must be entirely inferred. I think this interactivity is a reason I was attracted to Kathie Odom’s art in the first place; her paintings balance casual admiration and deeper analysis effortlessly. Sabbath is just one example of a landscape Odom has captured that tells a unique story to each viewer.
A collection of Kathie Odom’s art will be featured in Shenandoah Volume 66, No. 2 this spring. To see more, visit her website at http://kathieodom.com/.