We had the good fortune of connecting with Abby Bagby and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Abby, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks feels like standing on the edge of a pool of water, not knowing how deep the water before you is. You can choose to stay on the edge–safe, but wondering what might have been–or you can step forward into the unknown, confident that whatever depths you find yourself swimming in, you can adapt to the challenge. It’s always scarier to take the plunge alone, so I’m a big believer in seeking out community. Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to work alongside wonderful mentors and collaborators to create challenging and evocative art environments. I took a huge risk to launch Odyssey Studios, not knowing if Dallas would welcome what I had to offer, and the onset of the pandemic threw an additional wrench into my plans. What I found after a year of isolation and delayed events was a team who I could not imagine working without–the incomparable Brie Underhill and Colton James White–and a more mature understanding of where the arts in Dallas is moving. Risk-taking is inherent in any avant-garde art practice, and I’m drawn to anyone who lives outside of the norm and ahead of the curve. These are the artists with whom I am looking to work, and these are the artists who deserve a platform meant specifically for them.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I work between the bounds of sculpture, fashion, conceptual art and social practice, seeking material connections between beauty and the abject. Concentrating on social mythology, memory, and self-presentation, I take from the legacy of surrealism, happenings, and the critical writings of philosopher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva to investigate where the exquisite meets the wretched. I use a mix of traditional sculptural techniques paired with non-traditional castoff organic matter as both form and subject matter. My aesthetic blends performative modes from avant garde and haute couture fashion through the synthesis of high and low materials. My work asks questions about the beautiful and horrific, and it challenges the dominant notion that they are separate entities. To quote Kristeva, “the abject is edged with the sublime”. In my bodily work, I use mixed media dominated by castoff human hair to emulate animal forms and skin-like surfaces, calling to mind our connection with the earth and our mortality. Through this lens, viewers and participants accept an invitation to interact, whether materially or conceptually, with work that is simultaneously familiar and alien, attractive and repulsive. Rejecting the traditional uses of hair and imposing it on new forms and hosts, the material becomes an icon of human interaction, exposing both harmony and fear. The works take the shape of traditional and contemporary forms that seek legacy, namely cultural garments, fashion, and social media documentation, speaking to both the desperate grasp for immortality and the quiet longing to simply not be forgotten. Beyond my personal practice, I founded Odyssey Studios, a mixed-use art space that houses both permanent studios and event space for happenings and one-night-only installations and performances. Throughout the last decade, I have had the opportunity to curate a formal gallery: Umbrella Gallery in Deep Ellum; to form and execute an offbeat art appreciation series for non-artists: ArtSkool; and to produce a night of happenings alongside some of my favorite local artists. Odyssey is the culmination of all of these past encounters, as I was happy with creating art but craving the production of art events again. Dallas has no dedicated space for non-theater performance artists, and yet, boasts incredible talent who have thus far been expected to find their own way where venues are concerned. Odyssey is here to be a home for those artists, and a celebration of their practices, not as a feature of a visual art show, but as the main and only event. As an artist who has struggled to find my own place in the local scene, I understand how hard it is to find that opening where your art and your input fits into the Dallas voice. One of the most important features of Odyssey Studios is education: Our team is made up of working artists who have made our way any way we knew how, hustling, making mistakes and learning from them. We seek to teach what we know about the industry to all of the artists who come through our space. We seek to curate evocative and open-minded shows that are also highly sophisticated, so that artists who show with us can confidently grow their practice and move into new phases of creating. We want everyone who works with us to leave Odyssey having achieved something pivotal to their success.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a huge breakfast fan, and Dallas has some great diners: Gold Rush Cafe, Original Market Diner, AllGood Cafe, and Mama’s Daughters are my top spots to hit for morning-after brunch. White Rock, Exall Park, Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve are some of my go-to outdoor hangouts, the views are great for a walk or a picnic with a friend. As far as nightlife, you can find me at Pegasus City Brewery or Twilite Lounge for low-key patio vibes, Dallasite or Mike’s Gemini Twin for a quick game (or tournament) of pool, or It’ll Do Club if I’m in a dancing mood. Any combination of these and you’re sure to have an amazing time!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I could never have realized my vision for Odyssey Studios without the collaboration and support from my glamorous and wonderful studio mates: Colton James White and Brie Underhill. Each is an inspiration to me not only because of their art practice but also because of their friendship and critical eye. Thanks also to my ArtSkool family: John Logan, Rachael Anderson and Liz Trosper for being long-time collaborators and my first exposure to what an art collective could look like and become. I wouldn’t have the vocabulary to know what I wanted from an art space without their influence in both my personal practice and my curatorial experiences.

Website: www.odysseystudiosstx.com

Instagram: @odysseystudios_dtx

Other: odysseystudiosdtx@gmail.com

Image Credits
Personal: Ben Garrett Social: Leigh Violet

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutDFW is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.