© William Wegman photographed by Roy Adkins 2006
American Photographer | Born: 1943
William Wegman is an artist best known for creating series of compositions involving dogs, primarily his own Weimaraners in various costumes and poses. Wegman reportedly originally intended to pursue a career as a painter. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from Massachusetts College of Art in 1965 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1967. While teaching at California State University, Long Beach, he acquired the first and most famous of the dogs he photographed, a Weimaraner he named Man Ray (after the artist and photographer). Man Ray later became so popular that the Village Voice named him "Man of the Year" in 1982. He named a subsequent dog Fay Ray (a play on the name of actress Fay Wray). On January 29, 1992, Wegman appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and showed a video clip of Dog Duet, a short which he made in 1975 featuring Man Ray and another dog slowly and mysteriously peering around. Wegman explained that he had created the video by moving a tennis ball around, off-camera, thus capturing the dogs' attention. The same year, he did 3 network ID's for Nickelodeon starring the dogs on pedestals. William Wegman was artist-in-residence at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts in spring 2007 where his work featured on campus in the Addison Gallery of American Art. Wegman has also been an artist in residence at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Massachusetts where his Circus series was created with the College's 20x24 inch Polaroid camera. He received the College's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1987. William Wegman made his appearance on Animal Planet's "Dogs 101".
From Panopticon Gallery:
After teaching at various universities, William Wegman’s interests in areas beyond painting ultimately led him to photography and video. While teaching in Long Beach, California, Wegman acquired Man Ray, the dog with whom he would began a fruitful twelve-year collaboration. In 1972, Wegman and Man Ray moved to New York. In 1986, a new dog, Fay Ray, came into Wegman’s life, and a new tool - the Polaroid 20 x 24 camera. Over the years, Wegman’s cast and crew have grown. His photographs, videos, paintings, and drawings have been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally.
From Marc Selwyn Fine Art:
Wegman’s diverse body of work contributes to the conceptual canon with narrative photographs, and pioneering video, as well as eccentric and witty drawings and paintings. Many of these early photographic works, which evolved from his early performances and video, were made in Los Angeles at a time when his contemporaries such as Ruscha, Baldessari and Ruppersberg were also doing some of their most important work in Southern California. His groundbreaking black and white images from the early 1970’s, which grew out of his early performance and videos, are rigorously conceptual yet playful and experimental, challenging the viewer’s assumptions about his own perceptions. William Wegman has exhibited internationally beginning with his first solo exhibitions in 1971 at Galerie Sonnabend, Paris and Pomona College of Art, California. Recently in 2007, a major exhibition, Funney/Strange, traveled to Smithsonian American Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, among others. His work is in the permanent collections of such institutions as Carnegie Institute, Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He currently lives and works in New York City and Maine.
William Wegman was born in 1943 in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He received a B.F.A. in painting from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston in 1965 and an M.F.A. in painting from the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana in 1967. From 1968 to 1970 he taught at the University of Wisconsin. In the fall of 1970 he moved to Southern California where he taught for one year at California State College, Long Beach. By the early 70s, Wegman's work was being exhibited in museums and galleries internationally. In addition to solo shows with Sonnabend Gallery in Paris and New York, Situation Gallery in London and Konrad Fisher Gallery in Dusseldorf , his work was included in such seminal exhibitions as "When Attitudes Become Form," and "Documenta V" and regularly featured in Interfunktionen, Artforum and Avalanche. It was while he was in Long Beach that Wegman got his dog, Man Ray, with whom he began a long and fruitful collaboration. Man Ray, known in the art world and beyond for his endearing deadpan presence, became a central figure in Wegman's photographs and videotapes. In 1981, Man Ray died. It was not until 1986 that Wegman got a new dog, Fay Ray, and another collaboration began marked by Wegman's extensive use of the Polaroid 20 x 24 camera. With the birth of Fay's litter in 1989, Wegman's cast of grew to include Fay's offspring — Battina, Crooky and Chundo — and later, their offspring: Battina's son Chip in 1995, Chip's son Bobbin in 1999 and Candy and Bobbin's daughter Penny in 2004. Out of Wegman's involvement with this cast of characters grew a series of childrens' book inspired by the dogs' various acting abilities: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, ABC, Mother Goose, Farm Days, My Town, Surprise Party and Chip Wants a Dog (all Hyperion). Wegman has also published a number of books for adults including Man's Best Friend, Fashion Photographs and William Wegman 20 x 24 (all Abrams) and Fay and The New York Times Bestseller Puppies (both Hyperion). Wegman has created film and video works for Saturday Night Live and Nickelodeon and his video segments for Sesame Street have appeared regularly since 1989. His videos include Alphabet Soup, Fay's Twelve Days of Christmas and Mother Goose. In 1995, Wegman's film The Hardly Boys was screened at the Sundance Film Festival. After a twenty year hiatus, Wegman returned to the format of his video work from the 70s producing two new series of video works in 1998 and 1999. A collection of his selected video works from 1970-99 was recently released on DVD by Artpix. Numerous retrospectives of Wegman's work have been made among them "Wegman's World," which opened at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis in 1981 and toured the United States and "William Wegman: Paintings, Drawings, Photographs, Videotapes," which opened at the Kunstmuseum, Lucerne in 1990 traveling to venues across Europe and the United States including the Pompidou Center, Paris and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. More recent exhibitions have included retrospectives in Sweden, Japan, Korea and Spain and, most recently the exhibition "Funney/Strange," which opened at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2006 with a catalogue published by Yale University, making its final stop at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus in the fall of 2007. William Wegman lives in New York and Maine where he continues to make videos, to take photographs and to make drawings and paintings.