This story was featured in the June 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
When it comes to inspiration, there’s no place like home for Kathie Odom. And “home” for her means the entire state of Tennessee. Odom relishes driving the state’s back roads, where vintage houses, barns, and bridges dot the landscape—all visual fodder for the landscape painter. “The more rural and old the structures are, the more I’m drawn to them like a magnet,” she says.
Scenic treasures like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 45 minutes from her Knoxville home, are regular destinations. And the mountain ghost town of Elkmont is a favorite haunt. Once a popular resort, the abandoned village features cottages from a bygone era that now stand empty. For Odom, each cottage has a story that she hopes to tell on canvas.
She is fond of calling her style of landscape painting “nostalgic impressionism.” By that Odom means that many of the structures she paints, she yearns to live in—away from the city. “Happily, my life has been spent around lots of people,” she says. “But if there was a second life, it would include things like silence, acreage, hard work, and some chickens. I look for beauty that I could have experienced, longings that will never be realized except through my painting.
Last year one of Odom’s nostalgic scenes won a top prize at Plein Air Easton. And she is also a regular participant in other plein-air shows held across the country. But Odom is the first to admit that even when she is away from home, she is unwittingly drawn to scenes that remind her of her Tennessee homeland.
The artist earned a bachelor’s degree in art education from the University of Tennessee and spent over 30 years in creative pursuits, including creating faux finishes for residential and commercial clients, before turning to fine art. The turning point came in 2009 when her husband gave her a gift certificate for an oil-painting class. The moment Odom began painting in the class, she knew that she had “swung into a whole new career. I have no regrets about my choice,” she says. “I’m focused, happy, and there is no going back.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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