Save for his unusual name, Ralph Eugene Meatyard had all the trappings of an ordinary man. Born in 1925 in the Illinois town of Normal, the happily married father of three worked as an optician, coached his son’s baseball team, and even served as president of the Parent-Teacher Association.
But in his free time, Meatyard was also a self-taught photographer with a taste for the bizarre. On weekend trips into the dense woods of Kentucky, he staged nightmarish scenarios acted out by family members and populated with disfigured masks, broken mirrors, and dolls. In 1969, when asked about the sensation his photographs provoked, the suburban dad said it was a feeling “akin to a shiver, and pleasurable as a shiver sometimes is.” He called these unsettling images “romances,” adopting the definition of that word from Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary: “Fiction that owes no allegiance to the God of Things as They Are.” It’s safe to say that when Meatyard died of cancer at the age of 47 in 1972, he left behind one of the weirdest photographic oeuvres the world had then yet known.
Wildly Strange: The Photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard at the Blanton Museum in Austin welcomes viewers into Meatyard’s eerie world through 35 images from the collection of the Harry Ransom Center. Taken between 1958 and 1970, they include the photographer’s classic mask images and landscapes, as well as dust jacket portraits he took for writer friends like Guy Davenport, Wendell Berry, and Thomas Merton. Though Meatyard believed photographs should be “felt in a similar way as one listens to music, emotionally, without expecting a story,” the images in the show can’t help but bring to mind Edgar Allan Poe’s famous lines: “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, / Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
Wildly Strange: The Photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard continues at the Blanton Museum of Art (200 East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Austin, Texas) through June 21.
Some have compared her album art to John Collier’s 19th-century portrait of Lady Godiva, but Beyoncé can channel her radical spirit without evoking Western art history.
With a fresh Ethereum wallet ready to scoop up freebies, I attended the world’s largest conference dedicated to that controversial wart on the Zeitgeist, the “non-fungible token.”
International audiences have free access to the media collections of MMCA Korea, Sharjah Art Foundation, and ArkDes through this subscription-based art streaming platform.
Hundreds of copies of the LA-based guerrilla poster artist Robbie Conal’s latest work, “Supreme Injustices,” were pasted up from Venice to Los Feliz.
This week, another reason to leave Facebook, who really invented democracy, and what is “Skimpflation”?
Convened by Erika Sprey, Lamin Fofana, Sky Hopinka, Emmy Catedral, and Manuela Moscoso, the public program unfolds this summer at CARA in New York City.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including Pope.L, Beatriz Cortez, Mika Rottenberg, and more.
The acclaimed composer and noise artist talks to Hyperallergic about his Pulitzer Prize-winning composition “Voiceless Mass.”
The Bay Area art book fair is back this July with free programming at three different on-site venues, new exhibitors, and fundraising editions from renowned artists.
Her works, depicting objects from Korean markets, invite viewers to marvel at what can be achieved with fabric.
Salonen’s paintings point to a location in which reality is slippery, ill-defined — a dream or place of play.
The Ancient Egyptian tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, one of the most intricate in the Saqqara necropolis, shows the pair holding hands and embracing.