Southern gothic photography - Ralph Eugene Meatyard

this is the first of a few posts this week about the work of photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard rem102

Untitled, (Red River Gorge #21: fog on stream) c. 1967-71

I first ran into his work while in undergrad at the University of Kentucky.  Meatyard was a local Lexington, Kentucky optician who became interested in lenses and photography and continued to take photos on the weekends up until his death in 1972.  At the University of Kentucky, I uncovered negatives and prints by him, beautiful and disturbing, in the university photo archives.

His work was varied and his explorations with the camera were wide-ranging though his photos were mostly taken in and around northern and central  Kentucky, with his family and friends as often-used subjects.


Untitled (One-armed man with mannequin and mirror), c. 1958-62

This week I am going to post photos by Meatyard that span his artistic career from the 'zen' nature photos through the disturbing mask portraits.

All the photos this week are scanned from the excellent book on Meatyard, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, An American Visionary published by the Akron Art Museum in 1991, editor Barbara Tannenbaum.

ReSource Wars!

RW NQWT sign This past weekend we were part of a team that participated in ReSource Wars, a two-day design-build competition in service of the local building materials resource center here in Boulder.  The event was great fun and gave us the opportunity to design and build a quick project with a team of super talented friends and colleagues.

RW elevation

ReSource has been around for quite some time and they recently acquired a new building that needed some work.  The ReSource Wars event singled out 8 locations within the facility and assigned 8 teams to compete to make the most interesting, functional and awesome solution.  The team the we participated with - Not Quite White Trash - designed the Tool Library display wall.

RW bay

The Tool Library allows residents to peruse from a large selection of common hand tools and power tools and borrow them much like a book from a library.  Challenged with fitting a lot of tools along a wall only 25 feet long, we quickly realized that we would need more wall space.  Using only recycled building materials from the ReSource yard, we created a series of doors that are hinged and project out from the wall adding over 30 feet of more tool hanging space and can be flipped through like pages of a book.

RW screwdriver sign

All the various hangers for the tools were made from items we found in the yard, from recycled old tools to welded brackets and shelves.  Like Grandpa's old tool shed with the painted outlines of tools on pegboard walls, we utilized the tools themselves, in full 3D form, to hold the tools of the Library.

RW saw rack

The result we hope is a functional and funky display of the tools and their usage and will serve ReSource well.  However, maybe the greatest success of the two-day event was the forming and working of an amazing team.  The basic plan allowed for everyone to exercise their creative and technical skills and we completed the project with great camaraderie and only a little head-bashing.

RW initial sketch

Great and special thanks to ReSource to inviting us and to our SuperHero team mates:

Jim Walker, ACI Design Build, architect and builder

Mitch Levin, artist, metal worker extraordinaire

Aicha Menendez, landscape architect and designer

Brian Laak, furniture design and cabinet-maker

Mark Gelband, artist and builder

Guido Densler, master welder and metal worker

RW award

Colorado floods, North Boulder

after almost a week of unprecendented rains, flooding has surged all over the Front Range in Colorado.  In a usually dry season, we have had more than 14 inches of rain in 2 days (that is about 2 years worth of rain here in the arid West).  

Most Front Range communities sit on the edge of the fold where the relatively flat plains abruptly tilt up to start the Rocky Mountains.  And, of course, these settlements founded themselves at water sources - snow-fed creeks that stream down from the mountains, gathering a reverse delta of little feeder streams, into a single, larger stream of river that spills out on to the plains.  As we get very little rain out here, these streams are most active in May when the high mountain snow melt is most rapid.  Little riverlets that are dry for most of the year swell to raging courses.  As this happens every Spring and snow fall amounts don't vary all that much year to year, small flood plains or open areas surround these streams as they run through town.  Once in a great while a particularly large snow melt will break the banks and cause some flooding and erosion.

Boulder Flood map 01

The urban form that has built up around these little streams was in no way prepared for the onslaught of 14" of rain in September.  Houses and businesses within a block or two of each of these water courses were overwhelmed with rapidly flowing mud and water.  The debris flow was made worse by the recent wildfires, denuding the landscape and making topsoil up in the mountains even more fragile to erosion.  The small branch that runs near my place is usually dry in September and the underpass is there more for pedestrian and bike access than to act as a floodway.

I write this as I am sitting in my office looking north, watching yet more rain soak the city.  The worse is probably over according to the weather experts.  The town is full of pickup trucks carting off soaked carpet and ruined furniture.  The radio is announcing yet another flash flood warning for much of the Front Range.


Of course we can design buildings and landscapes to minimize the impacts of flooding.  The City's website has always had very good information on the locations of flood prone areas - the 100-year flood zone, the conveyance zone, etc.  But none of these maps imagined so much rain that flowed so quickly down every slope that even houses on the edge of mesas, far above flood zones, were heavily impacted by downhill debris flows and more water than sump pits  and drain tile can handle.

So what to do next?  Design for the worst-case?  Certainly that should be the direction for the houses along isolated creeks and steep canyons west of town where the loss of life is at stake.  But down here in the city, do we trade off some occasional water damage to basements against the chance of frequency of 100-year events?

Broadway and Iris, Boulder flood

I wrote some posts a couple of years ago about the risks of wildfire in the arid West.  And now we are not so arid for at least a week or so.  And the same topography that makes fires so dangerous - the steepness and remoteness of roads, the deep folds between peaks and valleys - creates as much threat for flood as fire.

We design houses to resist falling, burning embers drifting down from the sky.  We design houses to resist storm-driven debris flows and water seeping up from below.  We live in the fragile middle.

Hunting Lodge, construction process, ACI and M. Gerwing Architects

Construction is in a full court press on a hunting lodge project in rural southwest Minnesota designed by M. Gerwing Architects and ACI. HLF great room 01


The crews are working double time to try to complete the building for the September 21st Opening Day of the local hunting season and the arrival of the club's anxious members.  This building replaces a much older, distressed building that had been added on to over the decades and was suffering a number of structural and life-safety issues.  In lieu of an expensive and time-consuming renovation and addition, the club members hired ACI and M. Gerwing Architects to design a fully-functional, low-maintenance facility that will serve them well into the future.

HLF model 01

With just a few weeks left for construction, the local crews are busily hanging drywall and finishing floors, putting in an extraordinary effort working nights and weekends.  The ACI team will be heading down there next week to finalize details and help unpack furniture and mementos for installation.  ACI and M. Gerwing Architects have really executed a full design and management process for this project including choosing and ordering furniture, wall coverings, tableware, etc. down to the last knife and fork.

HLF fireplace 01

As you can see in the image above, the fireplace is under construction using local field stone gathered by the mason from the surrounding properties - truly locally sourced.