Odle, Walthall to serve up Surrealist treat at TASI

Travis Walthall, left, and Craig Odle

Every day, we walk around in a world that we agree is real. But what if we choose to recalibrate that reality?

The Surrealists bonded together in the 1930s to question the nature of reality. Craig Odle and Travis Walthall have bonded over a new interpretation of Surrealism, “Recalibration of Realities,” which opens Oct. 2 at The Art Studio, Inc.

Travis Walthall

“I just think ‘Recalibration of Realities’ is cool, because it applies to the artwork — deciphering and breaking down the language and also reconstructing this narrative,” Walthall said. “There’s just going to be a huge variety, it’s going to be a buffet of visual vocabulary.”

The pair met when Walthall had an exhibition at The Art Studio in 2018. Odle reached out to talk about the work, and the pair found their ideas about were compatible. Their styles are different — Odle is self-taught while Walthall is completing his MFA at Stephen F. Austin University — but they share an artistic philosophy.

“I never took an art class, so I didn’t really understand that my work fell into a Surrealist realm at all,” Odle said. “I really consider my work always being a slice of my personality, no matter how dark and twisted. I consider it to be just the raw form of me.”

On the surface, the pair are unlikely artistic bedfellows. Walthall is flamboyantly recognizable with his long hair and signature Salvador Dali-esque mustache. Odle is much more sedate with none of the outward trappings of the stereotypical artist. Walthall’s paintings are stylistically loose while Odle’s seem more controlled.

Craig Odle

Both artists explore ideas through juxtapositions of images, with a healthy dose of wit that forces the viewer to question preconceived notions. Much of Odle’s works explores familiar phrases or song lyrics. While teaching his eight-year-old daughter, Odle found himself intrigued by the expressions we use.

“If you take them extremely literally, it paints a totally different picture than what we’re actually trying to talk about,” he said. “I think it’s creativity, I believe is an actual muscle. And it’s a muscle that when you start to exercise it, it becomes so much easier, I don’t feel that I actually have to sit down with a concept for me to actually figure out something Surreal within (it).”

Walthall said graduate school has pushed him to explore different practices and techniques.

“I’ve done a series of Pointillism drawings that combine underwater figurative photography with Rorschach inkblots, which is a psychological test where you’re shown inkblots and (interpret) what you see in the cards,” he said. “It’s basically to see what your subconscious picks up on and you project onto the picture plane. (I’m) just trying to roll out some artwork and keep it fresh, keep it exciting, and try some stuff I’ve never tried before.”

Odle works primarily in acrylics, while Walthall explores oil paints, acrylics and ballpoint pen drawings.

Together, they hope the exhibition is an immersive experience for the viewer, and Odle said he expects to have more than 80 pieces alone. He said there’s a lot of art and vision that goes into hanging the show.

“I feel like once we get there and we’re grooving and putting stuff up, and deciding where everything’s going, I feel that that’s when the real experience comes together,” he said.

Travis Walthall and Craig Odle

There’s going to be something for everybody to enjoy and appreciate, Walthall said.

“The exhibition is going to have a lot of push and pull, a tremendous amount of flooding of color — but also, sometimes, where you just want to step back and just take it all in at once,” he said. “It’s going to be a great experience, and also (a chance for) people to see what’s going on with contemporary Surrealism, to give them a fresh take of what artists are doing today and how we’re incorporating some things from our culture into our artwork.”

Ultimately, Odle said the show will be fun.

“I think that if someone’s looking for really stuffy art show, if you’re looking for a very nice peaceful show, it might not be the right art show,” he said. “But if you’re looking for a good time, and to laugh, and to actually have an experience and really feel something, this is probably the art show for you.”

“Recalibration of Realities” is on display through Oct. 30. The Art Studio, Inc. is located at 720 Franklin in downtown Beaumont. For more, visit www.artstudio.org.

This story was first published in the Oct. 1, 2021 Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.

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