Friday, December 17, 2004


Ralph Eugene Meatyard was a Lexington, KY optician who had the good sense to start taking unforced, naturally glowing photographs of his family and the local landscape. But you can read all about that in the NYTimes. There's currently a full exhibition of his work at the International Center of Photography which is down there on 6th Ave. by the HBO building.

I saw a great play at the 2004 Humana Festival at Actor's Theatre of Louisville that was anchored by a long, intricate monologue given by the "character" of Mr. Meatyard. It ("At The Vanishing Point") was written by Naomi Iizuka who put the show together by interviewing lots of people who lived in the Butchertown section of Louisville. She felt like these people and their history was rapidly being ground into powder by Wal-Mart,, and the play was an attempt to say to the suburbs, "Drowning! Not waving!" but in a lovely way.

But Mr. Meatyard didn't live in Louisville. He lived in Lexington. So why was he in the play, beyond the very play-worthy fact that he's a genius artist whose life functions as poetic metaphor for the vanishing of local culture and community? The play was actually performed in the hull of an old, out-of-business meatpacking warehouse in the middle of Butchertown, the center of the meatpacking industry in long-ago Louisville - this is where Fischer Meats were "packed." The fact that this man's name is Meatyard and the play is all about Butchertown is a connection that no one talked about, either inside or outside the play. Beyond that, the man has no connection to the area or people in the play. But he shows up there and haunts the entire story. When you leave the play, you assume that he was an integral part of the story of Butchertown. But when you look around there for an acutal footprint of his, you find nothing. It is a fascinating omission and a spectral leap.


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