Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s The Unforeseen Wilderness

Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s The Unforeseen Wilderness

August 6, 2021 – February 13, 2022

The upcoming exhibition of Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s The Unforeseen Wilderness celebrates the recent acquisition of a remarkable portfolio of 56 photographs depicting Kentucky’s own Red River Gorge.

In 1962, the Army Corps of Engineers received approval from Congress to dam the Red River in east-central Kentucky in an effort to control decades-long flooding in the area. In response, the University Press of Kentucky commissioned poet and essayist Wendell Berry to write a book advocating the preservation of the Gorge in its natural state and engaged Lexington photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard to produce photographs to accompany the text. Meatyard’s photographs, one of the first photographic attempts at environmental conservation in the American South, played a vital role in the decades-long effort to preserve the Gorge.

Unlike the artist’s signature depictions of blurred forms, eerie dolls, and children wearing strange masks, Meatyard’s photographs for Unforeseen Wilderness capture a mystery borne of the natural landscape, where trees and rocks are engulfed in saturated shadows. He foregoes trite vista views of the Gorge in favor of capturing the beauty of the landscape from a hiker’s perspective. He invites us to discover the intimate details of nature that can only be experienced at close range, whether it’s a patch of lichen growing on the side of a tree or the way light plays on the surface of a spider web.

As of December 26, 2021, all guests must provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours to visit the Speed. All children 5-11 must have had at least one shot of the COVID vaccine or a negative COVID test in order to enter the Museum. Learn more >>

Support for this exhibition comes from:
Eliza Brown
Kentucky Exhibition Season sponsored by:
Eleanor Bingham Miller
Exhibition Season sponsored by:
Cary Brown and Steven Epstein
Paul and Deborah Chellgren
Debra and Ronald Murphy