Living

The very air she breathed was scented with art

Harriet Goode poses in the hall gallery of her downtown Rock Hill penthouse. The prominent Rock Hill artist is being recognized with an exhibit at the Center for the Arts, "Sister Marshall: Works by Harriet Goode, 1955 to 2007," that features about 30 works, spanning the years since she was a Converse College freshman. The charcoal drawing of a Michaelangelo plaster cast, above right, was drawn by Goode in 1955. The center work is "Sisters of Another Century," a watercolor from 1984, while the bottom work is a 2007 piece titled "The Air She Breathed was Bent, Twisted."
Harriet Goode poses in the hall gallery of her downtown Rock Hill penthouse. The prominent Rock Hill artist is being recognized with an exhibit at the Center for the Arts, "Sister Marshall: Works by Harriet Goode, 1955 to 2007," that features about 30 works, spanning the years since she was a Converse College freshman. The charcoal drawing of a Michaelangelo plaster cast, above right, was drawn by Goode in 1955. The center work is "Sisters of Another Century," a watercolor from 1984, while the bottom work is a 2007 piece titled "The Air She Breathed was Bent, Twisted."

Her paintings are like short stories, and most of them are fictional. They are released from Harriet Goode's imagination, perhaps, by an emotion or an experience.

Women are her favorite subjects, and they span the gamut from gracious, detailed figures lounging in long, fashionable dresses to starkly nude, faceless forms.

Some are titled with a line from a reading that captured her imagination: "The very air she breathed was bent, twisted." Or "She loosened her grip on the person she had always presumed herself to be."

Another is "Slipping in and out of an ancient saga." And this one: "She spread her arms and sailed out beyond everything she had ever dreamed."

Goode, a prominent Rock Hill artist who has long been a leader in the local cultural scene, turned 70 this year. She is being recogized by local art leaders in a monthlong exhibit that opens Monday at the downtown Center for the Arts, 121 E. Main St.

The exhibit, "Sister Marshall: Works by Harriet Goode, 1955 to 2007," features about 30 works, spanning the years since she was a Converse College freshman. She has been known all her life as Sister, the nickname older sister, Genie Marshall Wilder, gave Goode as a child.

On Friday, Goode will be honored during a private reception at the arts center, and the exhibit will continue through Oct. 29. The work will be on display during Rock Hill's Downtown Blues Festival on Main Street Oct. 4 through 6. For details, visit www.yorkcountyarts.org.

Goode and her husband, Martin, the parents of three grown children, overlook downtown Rock Hill from their spacious apartment and gallery space on the top floor of the old People's National Bank building, which they renovated.

She answered some questions posed by The Herald about her art and its evolution, the local cultural scene and downtown Rock Hill. Following are excerpts of her comments. For complete comments and a video, visit www.heraldonline.com.

When you began your work as an artist, what was it you hoped to accomplish?

Actually, I didn't set any real goals when I began to paint seriously. I just felt like I had to paint, and I didn't set out to set the world on fire with my work.

Wait . . . I take that back. The goal I set when I was 17 or 18 years old, and I was quite serious, was to become a fashion designer and to attend what was then The Woman's College of the University of North Carolina, which had an excellent art department and a major in fashion design. I was going to be the next CoCo Channel, and yes ma'am, I was going to set the fashion world on fire.

As it turned out, my parents didn't think that was a good choice for me. I attended Converse for two years, not noted for its art department, but professor August Cook was quite good and I learned a lot. I'm very glad for the classical art background I gained at Converse.

In what ways do you think your art has changed over your career?

When I rented a downtown studio in about 1982, I reverted back to painting what I knew -- fashionable looking women in comfortable situations. As I studied with other artists, painting from live models, often "undraped," as we say, my work was still rather romantic, pretty pictures. Painting this way established my reputation and my work was accepted in state and national competitions, and sales were good locally and in other areas as well.

But painting that way became almost boring to me; it was like I was doing the same thing over and over, with new patterns on the dresses. I just got tired of painting pretty girls sitting around either undraped or in interesting clothes.

Then I allowed something to occur in my work that was natural to me, which I had fought -- exaggeration of the figure. Often, without intention, my drawings showed women whose bodies grew out of proportion as the drawing descended down the page.

So I thought to myself . . . Eureka! Here is my thing. Exaggeration of the figure . . . small head, big hips, even bigger hands and feet! Soon, that became recognizable as my style.

Too, expressive line in my figure paintings has been associated with my style. I draw a lot in my paintings. Actually, if drawings were as sought after as paintings, I'd never lift another brush.

You've done a lot of work with the female form in your art. Why?

The only answer I have is that I fall back on my real interest in women's fashion.

Too, I was raised in a house with three beautiful sisters, and later on a precious baby brother ... I like looking at women and I like painting women.

How has your art changed your life?

Art has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. We didn't have original art in our house when I was a child, and I don't think I ever went to a commercial art gallery growing up. The first museum I ever went to was The Smithsonian when I was in the fifth grade. A trip with my friend Nancy Willis and her parents.

But I was a lucky kid. My parents recognized that I had some skill. They allowed me to buy art supplies at Record Printing Co., a stationary and printing business on Hampton Street owned by Loyd Ardrey and Ann Spencer's daddy.

Art was always a part of my life, so I guess it hasn't exactly changed my life, but it certainly has enriched my life. My art buddies . . . I have art friends all over the country . . . are very special to me. They've enriched my life. When my husband, Martin and I travel, we unfailingly seek out the art museums to see what that community collects, what those people believe is important.

You and your husband moved downtown in part to help with the local redevelopment effort. Has downtown developed the way that you hoped it would?

Yes, it's coming along. No, it's not coming along fast enough! We've heard all the complaints and the reasons all justifiable, but I admit, it was a huge relief to me to hear a consultant from Greenville declare last year at the Economic Development Council retreat that we're exactly where we should be in the redevelopment of downtown. He said the "overnight success" of downtown Greenville took 20 years! That made me feel more patient. Took away some of the angst.

The thing that frustrates me the most about the redevelopment of downtown Rock Hill is to see how little confidence our own citizens have. Why just the other day there was a letter to the editor of The Herald stating that there is nothing going on downtown, no traffic, and nobody walking on the sidewalks . . . Downtown is growing slowly and methodically. Our city and economic development professionals are being prudent and careful in their planning. It just takes a long time to get people to reach the level of security that their investment is solid.

Why is art an important part of life and why is it an important element in schools and the community?

George Bernard Shaw said "Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the World unbearable." Tom Stanley noted that artists help define a community. I'm not smart enough to say it any more eloquently than those two gentlemen.

Artists have illustrated our history, and documented events so that even we know what soldiers wore to battle in the 15th century. Civilizations which have encouraged the arts to flourish are those we know and remember.

Today, we have mechanical means to show us what things look like. We have artists who can show us what's in our souls. We have to nurture that. There is nothing else that can take the place of art. Nothing.

For a complete transcript of The Herald's interview with Harriet Goode, plus video footage, check under the Lifestyles menu at

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