Ralph Eugene Meatyard: Stages for Being (University of Kentucky Art Museum, 2019)

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1925 – 1972) made his living as an optician in Lexington while creating enigmatic photographs featuring friends and family members posed in abandoned places, often wearing masks or enacting symbolic gestures.

Monographs include American Mystic, Dolls and Masks, A Fourfold Vision, and The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater and Other Figurative Photographs.

Artist: https://fraenkelgallery.com/artists/ralph-eugene-meatyard

Video: Wildly Strange by Arts in Context (Youtube)

Meatyard’s work is deeply rooted in Kentucky, even as it reflects his wider knowledge of subjects as diverse as literature, jazz, philosophy, history, and art. On weekends, he scouted the countryside for abandoned homes to use as sets and directed his wife, children, and friends in scenes that suggest both ritual and theater.

Creating mood with natural lighting, he used masks, dolls, and found objects as unsettling props and mined architectural detail for abstract compositional elements. He experimented with the expressive and metaphoric power of formal elements such as light and darkness, and explored photography’s ability to make visible what the human eye doesn’t register.

He used motion to blur form, so that the human body appears to lose its solidity; at the same time, he blurred the line between the physical world and that of energy and the spirit.

Bates College Museum of Art

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Publisher: University of Kentucky Art Museum