About The Artist
Multimedia artist William Wegman is a real dog person. He told a journalist that some people "are so doggy, everything they do is sort of a dog thing," only to insist that he is not one of those people. Surely this is evidence of his droll sense of humor, since he is best-known for living, working, and playing with Wiemaraner dogs for most of his artistic career. In the 1970s with large-format (20 x 24) Polaroid cameras he shot wry, comic tableaux: the regal breed deadpan, juxtaposed with human props, in anthropomorphic situations.
Wegman came of artistic age during the 1960s and embraced conceptual art and video; he also draws, sculpts, and paints. He claims his influences were artists like Ed Ruscha and Bruce Nauman, along with radio show comedians. By the early 1970s he exhibited nationally and internationally: he was included in the seminal Live in Your Head. When Attitudes Become Form: Works-Concepts-Processes-Situations-Information (1969-1970) at the Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland, and in Documenta V in Kassel, Germany in 1972. During this time Wegman moved to Long Beach and taught at the California State University for one year. There he bought his first Wiemaraner for $25 dollars–he named him Man Ray. What followed was a long and fruitful artistic collaboration. One video involved the artist reading a school report card to the dog, and in one photo the dark brown Man Ray is covered in poured flour. Wegman achieved both popular success and critical esteem-perhaps his art worked as a charismatic antidote to the Watergate era.
After Man Ray’s death, in 1985 a sympathetic dog breeder offered Wegman a female Weimaraner puppy, which the artist named Fay Ray (after Fay Wray, the female lead actress in “King Kong”). Besides his conceptual video and photographic work, he created film and video segments which aired on “Saturday Night Live, “Sesame Street,” and the Nickelodeon channel; a film that went to the Sundance Film Festival, commercial imagery for magazines, and both artist and children’s books.
Numerous solo exhibitions and surveys have been made of Wegman’s work. The retrospective William Wegman: Funney/Strange was held at the Brooklyn Museum in 2006, and traveled to, among others, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus. In 2012 a major survey of over 100 nature-related works in various media-William Wegman: Hello Nature-was presented at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Maine, and traveled to Sweden in 2013. William Wegman lives in New York and Maine with his wife, children, and Bobbin, the great-grandson of Fay Ray; along with Wiemaraners Astro, Flo, and Topper. He continues to work in video, photography, drawing, and painting.
Conley, Kevin. “William Wegman: His wry, wildly popular photography owes a great debt to the gifted performance artists he works with.” Salon. Salon Media Group, 8 Feb. 2000. Web. 8 June 2015.
Schonauer. David. "William Wegman's Theory of Dogs and Dogginess." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.Com, 2 Sept. 2011. Web. 8 June 2015.
“William Wegman: About the Artist.” William Wegman. William Wegman, 2010. Web. 8 June 2015.