Ralph Eugene Meatyard was a photographer and optician who spent the last two decades of his life in Lexington, Kentucky, producing an eccentric body of work at some remove from the photographic mainstream. He often posed his family and friends in enigmatic tableaux with props such as dolls and rubber masks, imbuing his images with a haunting Surrealist sensibility. The curious title of this photograph stems from Meatyard's passion for odd names, puns, and peculiar words and phrases. Diriment is a made-up word, a Lewis Carroll-like compound of "dire" and "merriment" that suggests a mood of high-spirited fun and hilarity fraught with anxious undertones.
Photography in the Fine Arts
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Photography in the Fine Arts IV," May 16, 1963–September 1, 1963.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Now You See It: Photography and Concealment," March 31, 2014–September 1, 2014.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photographs. "Grand Illusions: Staged Photography from the Collection," August 10, 2015–November 15, 2015.
Hall, James Baker, ed. Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Millerton, N.Y.: Aperture, 1974. p. 12.
Tannenbaum, Barbara, ed. Ralph Eugene Meatyard: An American Visionary. New York: Akron Art Museum, 1991. p. 141.
See variant in Ralph Eugene Meatyard, notes by Arnold Gassan and Wendell Berry, Lexington, KT: Gnomon Press, 1970, pl.12. The variant excludes the masked figure but shows virtually the same background.