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Weaving, sports and LGBTQ identity in winter shows at DePaul Art Museum

Betsy Odom
Chicago artist Betsy Odom's work "Birkenstock," made in 2018 for display at DePaul Art Museum. The exhibition opens Jan. 17. (Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Tom Van Eynde)
Chicago-based artists Karolina Gnatowski and Betsy Odom, who create works of art using techniques of weaving, leather tooling, woodcarving and airbrushing, will be featured in solo exhibitions this winter at DePaul Art Museum.

“Karolina Gnatowski: Some Kind of Duty” and “Betsy Odom: Butchcraft” will include works that range in size from small pieces created from bits of string or wood, to a full-length, fully-playable badminton net made by Gnatowski, who goes by kg, with rackets made by Odom. Museum guests will be encouraged to pick up a racket and play a game of badminton in the galleries.

“Betsy Odom’s exhibition addresses sports and LGBTQ identity, while kg’s badminton net merges art and sports in a participatory installation,” says Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director and chief curator of the museum.

The exhibitions open Jan. 17 and run through March 31 at the museum on the Lincoln Park Campus. DePaul Art Museum is located at 935 W. Fullerton Ave. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday. Admission is free. Additional information at​ or 773-325-7506.

‘Karolina Gnatowski: Some Kind of Duty’

The exhibition will feature nearly 50 pieces created by kg within the last year.

“My work is biographical, in the weavings I'm telling my story, my family's story, talking about Jim Morrison’s mythology,” says kg. “I travel often and I want those stories to be part of the work, so I purchase materials on the road. I usually pick up materials that match the music I’m listening to on the road. For this show, it was The Doors’ last album ‘LA Woman.’ The cover is maroon and yellow so I bought many of those color fibers.

“Spinning yarn requires you to run your fingers over every inch of the line, and I am invested in that very intimate relationship with my materials. While I spin, which takes hours of sitting at the spinning wheel, I watch TV or movies. I respond to the emotional content in whatever I am viewing while I spin. For example, I spun the yarn for ‘Stronger Than Dirt’ while watching a horror movie, so the line has a lot of very thin tensioned moments. In the piece ‘Just This Once,’ I spun the line sitting in an open field at midnight. I was away from my dog and wanted to spin line in his absence, so I did this in the absence of any light too,” kg says.

‘Betsy Odom: Butchcraft’

Using leather tooling, woodcarving and airbrushing, Odom handcrafted catcher’s mitts, soccer cleats, sandals, batting helmets and life jackets for her first solo Chicago museum exhibition. 

The works of art will be arranged as if for sale at a thrift store, which invites consideration of the objects’ utilitarian functions, while questioning meaning and value as fine arts, crafts and sports intersect, says Odom.

“My practice centers around what I think of as ‘butch craft,’ where you choose intense or excessive techniques in suggestive materials, especially those associated with masculinity, like wood carving and leather tooling,” she says. “I remake objects as a way to queer moments in culture.

“I’m interested in mimicking the experience of shopping at an antique mall or flea market, where the objects on display are quite disparate, connected only by their sense of a lost history. The quantity of work is important — I hope that the viewers will experience the state of ‘I like that’ ‘I don’t like this,’  personalizing the relationship to the work while at the same time raising the question of why one may prefer one thing over another. This aspect of ‘tastes’ relates directly to the queer encoding that takes place in much of the work, where a piece might speak more or differently to a queer viewer,” she adds.

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