Unreal Nature

March 18, 2015

In Sight

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… His legendary silence [came from] a deep belief that others had things to tell him about his images. He already knew what he thought, but he also knew that he had created works whose expressive power reached beyond what he could explain.

This is from ‘Masks: for faces*’ by Thomas Meyer [*Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, IV, iv] found in The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater by Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1974):

… Odd how that spooky quality (for me at least) begins to bend into fascination & then into familiarity — a human warmth. As if the masks, the specters, work like Piero’s perspectives & lead my eyes deeper into the picture, around corners past various things set in my eyes’ way to read as I go back to the green patch & grotto, there where the cloud makes a shadow.

On the tape [recording that Meyer is listening to outdoors in Plogeto in Umbria, Italy] Gene Meatyard tells his audience seated in a camera obscura:

No intention of any dramatic things out of the shadows, but making the shadows lead into a picture & carry its balance, carry its weight, making the shadow of Lucy stand out more.

… Tape on again. Gene Meatyard’s voice to me, to the black cat stretched out on the terrace, to the olives with their glinting top leaves:

Am I looking at a mask or am I the mask being looked at?

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The following is from Ralph Eugene Meatyard: The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater and other Figurative Photographs by James Rhem (2002):

The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater, as Meatyard envisioned it, comprised sixty-four 7×7 inch photographs. In each image but the last, the photographer’s strikingly beautiful wife, Madelyn, appears in a hag’s mask next to a different friend or relative in a semi-transparent old man’s mask. Gene Meatyard himself is the relative in the first of these images, and he plays Lucybelle in the last of them, wearing the hag’s mask and woman’s clothing, while Madelyn Meatyard wears the old man’s mask. For all but one of these double portraits, Meatyard had written captions.

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[line break added to make this easier to read online] He planned to have the book’s design amplify its controlling aesthetic — an old-fashioned family album with black pages and captions handwritten in white beneath the pictures. The design, the captions, and the sequence of images were chosen so as to realize the fully structured aesthetic object that he had in mind. He was not quite forty-seven when he died, and moving toward, not from, his creative peak. Indeed, the way in which the Lucybelle he visualized summarizes and yet differs from his previous work offers clear evidence of the vigor and evolving complexity of his art.

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… At times one hears it said that too much scholarship takes away the mystery and diminishes enjoyment of such an artist. Meatyard did not share this view. More than once he insisted, “You cannot bring too much scholarship to a picture, and what you bring to a picture, what knowledge you have, the more you’re going to be able to see.” His legendary silence about the meaning of his own photography, the way he sat quietly while others viewed and commented on them, did not stem from some coy refusal to tell, but from a deep belief that others had things to tell him about his images. He already knew what he thought, but he also knew that he had created works whose expressive power reached beyond what he could explain. Others could show him things he’s seen but couldn’t say, and just as he wanted to read all the poetry and essays his friends had written, he wanted to hear their insights.

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My most recent previous Meatyard post is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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