Unreal Nature

March 25, 2015

Out of His Own Light

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… fully knowing, full in the light, though, as the near horizon showed, there would be an end of seeing.

This is from Wendell Berry’s essay, ‘Remembering Gene Meatyard‘ (May 16, 1990):

… Gene’s ruling principle, as man and artist, I think, was to keep out of his own light. And one of his principles, as a man, was to keep quiet about his principles.

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[all pictures are from Meatyard’s Lucybelle Crater project]

[ … ]

… After he became ill with cancer, Gene continues to come with his family to visit us on Sundays. He continued to come after he was unable to swallow food; he would sit in the living room while the rest of us ate dinner in the kitchen. And he never conceded by so much as a look that these circumstances were the least bit out of the ordinary. Though he was dying, what he was doing was living.

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Sometime toward the end, Gene made three photographs of himself rising up and going over the top of a grassy ridge. He never saw these pictures; they were developed after his death by his friend, Bob May, and shown not long afterward in an exhibit of his work at Doctor’s Park in Lexington. I had not heard of them; I came upon them unexpectingly. And this was my last, and in a sense my fullest, encounter with Gene. These photographs were his elegy and farewell, and their impact was physical. They came down like a sudden handclap upon everything I knew of him and felt about him. They removed at a stroke my fear that Gene, in refusing any concessions to illness, had somehow been ignoring it. He had been going away from us as he now revealed himself to us: fully knowing, full in the light, though, as the near horizon showed, there would be an end of seeing.

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My most recent previous Meatyard post is here.

-Julie

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