Surreal life

Self-taught artist Alli Good believes that it’s easier for her to maintain her unique vision by working in isolation. “I love Asheville’s art scene,” she says, “but I can start to second-guess what I’m doing if I’m around it too much.”

Alli Good’s “First Signs of Passion, a Horse and a Bucket”

That might be because Good is in the running for the least-pretentious-artist-you’ll-ever-meet award (she has no fancy degrees from prestigious art schools, doesn’t wear paint-encrusted clothing and doesn’t hang out in artsy coffee houses sniping about how lame the work of other artists has become). It might also be because the painter—a military brat—is a lone wolf. When she was a child, her family crisscrossed the map from Texas to Ohio to Texas to Virginia to Texas (again) to Maine and finally to Asheville.

“I went to T.C. Roberson,” she reminisces. “I was a total outsider. The school was Southern and cliquish in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. It was painful for me. That’s when I started making semi-autographical paintings.”

Good began creating art in junior high; it was in high school that she rendered a tortured, hot-pink face being devoured by a monstrous, bug-eyed blue harridan. These days, her work continues to be hauntingly personal, but the darkness is tempered by a sweet, subtle humor. Her life-long admiration for Salvador Dali is apparent, and is melded with her esteem for contemporary underground cartoonists and illustrators. Her sense of whimsy is echoed in her use of unconventional materials: ink, house paint and spray paint.

“I don’t use the spray paint often,” Good notes. “I’m not a street artist; I don’t have those skills.” She does, however, wield plenty of skill in manifesting her hard-line narratives. She works with a sure hand, executing flat-pattern figures that tell her stories. Female figures morph into fish. There are allusions to holes and wounds.

In the painting, “The Daughters of a Beautiful Lady,” the artist and her sister are portrayed as plump pink mutants gnawing at their mother’s knees as she struggles to arrange her dress. The mother, like most of Good’s characters, is awkward and uncomfortable.

In “First Signs of Passion, a Horse and a Bucket,” a young girl with the typical pre-teen horse fixation swings on a pink bucket, representative of feeding the latent sexual stirrings of adolescence. The gray horse lifts his long, suggestively muscled neck toward the sky.

Even if Good—who lives in a ranch house, is happily married and has a 7-year-old son—doesn’t fit into the niche of the struggling artist, she has a sound knowledge of where her work belongs. High art and low art hold equal place for her. Exhibited with her paintings are two installations—one of liquor bottles (each with a painting of a woman’s face in the throes of alcoholic stupor) titled “Drunk Girls are Great,” and one called “Random Thoughts,” a collection of suspended baseball caps (each festooned with characters from Good’s paintings or from other places in her fertile mind).

Good remains similarly open-minded about her penchant for isolation. She makes an exception for a loose collective of young artists with whom she occasionally collaborates. “The group calls itself Segment 16,” she says. “If you cut an earthworm in half at the 16th segment, it becomes two earthworms. Being a part of this group offers support and encouragement.”

[Connie Bostic is an Asheville based painter and writer.]

who: Alli Good
what: Darkly themed paintings with a sense of humor in the show Old Fashioned Feelings: New Works
where: The Satellite Gallery (55 Broadway, Asheville)
when: Through Friday, May 16. Info: 505-2225

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