Odell encourages her students to think differently about art and its unquantifiable benefits. For her, artmaking is about observing the world, appreciating unpredictability, and luxuriating in “the part of the process where you don’t even know what you’re doing yet.” Yet she also acknowledges the particular irony that the type of thinking she advocates “can help you get jobs.” Employers, after all, value creativity, open-mindedness, and new perspectives on old problems.
Odell herself specializes in that final quality, making art that she describes as creating a “new framework for someone’s attention.” Her conceptual practice often involves collecting and curating objects in a way that encourages viewers to look at them differently.
One of Odell’s ongoing projects, Bureau of Suspended Objects (or BSO, 2015–present), involves documenting and showcasing trash, her own property, and small purchases from stores such as Walmart. She’s presented the various components—such as a deflated soccer ball, a chipped license plate, an empty green bottle, and a shiny backpack—on shelves and behind glass, dignifying them in a new way. Odell has presented this work at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. She also produced a book, The Archive of the Bureau of Suspended Objects (2015), which details the monetary values, manufacturing locations, and corporate histories of items she found during a residency at the Recology dump in San Francisco. Odell is hardly the first artist to make art from trash, but her care and obsessive documentation when dealing with refuse may be unprecedented.