Occasion for Diriment

Artist: Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925–1972)

Date: 1962

Medium: Gelatin silver print

Dimensions: 18.0 x 18.7 cm (7 1/16 x 7 3/8 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1967

Accession Number: 67.543.29

Rights and Reproduction: © The Estate of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.


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.