Famed photographer and artistic luminary William Wegman draws on numerous creative disciplines and sensibilities in composing his beloved and unmistakable photographic works. A native of Massachusetts, William Wegman’s educational background suggests an artist more inclined towards the paintbrush than towards the camera lens, and painting is exactly what the man had in mind when academically honing his skills.
Having earned from the Massachusetts College of Art his BFA in painting, Wegman would then add printmaking to his artistic repertoire when working towards his MFA at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Though not associated with the ultra-abstract or avant-garde stylings of many contemporaries, Wegman would create himself a decidedly worthy niche within the fabric Americana.
A move to California upon completing his formal education would present William with a most welcome and inspiring addition to his already rich life: that addition was Man Ray, a Weimaraner with which William Wegman would enjoy a fruitful and endearing professional relationship. Aside from possessing the standard canine characteristics many Americans find so appealing in dogs of all breeds, Man Ray was unusually photogenic and proved willing (likely by way of considerable persuasion) to sustain numerous poses before Wegman’s immortalizing camera.
What resulted was a photographic series in which Man Ray, and other dogs since his passing, would capture the hearts of Wegman’s many fans with his strangely docile demeanor and anthropomorphic qualities. The latter of these resulted from Wegman’s inventive use of clothing, props, and scene arrangements intended to generate an element of charming incongruity, as the seemingly disaffected Man Ray would lovingly embrace his peculiar fate.
So intertwined were the life threads of William Wegman and his loyal (to say nothing for cooperative) dog Man Ray that mention of the former’s artistic career sans mention of the latter is tantamount to cultural misdemeanor. What the two yielded between their respective talents was one of modern art’s most unusual of entries. Of course, Man Ray’s death in the early 1980s would bring to a close this otherwise blessed partnership, and Wegman would understandably from welcoming into his life another animal for several years’ time. When he finally did so, the world would soon thereafter become photographically acquainted with Fay Ray, a successor whose name played on that of Man Ray and also that of the famed King Kong (1933) actress, albeit with a slightly different spelling. As he had done with Man Ray, Wegman soon created for Fay Ray a degree of model stardom which would prove itself the envy of a great many human counterparts.
William Wegman Artwork
Aside from his work behind the camera (and Man Ray’s before it), Wegman has proven himself universally gifted in terms of his capacity for creative expression. Extensive work in video, a respectable number of publications, several children’s books, and a long record of television/film credits are enough to secure Wegman a place within the pantheon of artistic worthies. Whether organizing his works into photo-essays, making media appearances, or refining his edition prints, Wegman is invariably accustomed to making known his passion for artistic expression.
Whether exhibited in the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian, the polished confines of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or the mega-sophisticated Museum of Modern Art, Wegman’s works are unquestionably commensurate with those alongside which they are placed. Likewise, Wegman’s appearances on children’s programming and lighthearted comedy broadcasts ring true because of the warmth and sincerity conveyed across the breadth of his catalog. He has achieved a level of artistic excellence which allows a plurality of media venues to faithfully align with his otherwise singular artistic vision. That vision has for some time, and will surely continue to, with patrons and critics nationwide and abroad.
A certain timelessness and accessibility characterizes Wegman’s best known works, as they tend to connect with people in a disarmingly vulnerable manner. Each asks its witness to take a bit less seriously the lives over which we are not always wholly in control…to forfeit momentarily our sense of holding life by the reins. Laying eyes upon so good a sport as Man Ray (and his successors) is to witness the stresses of modern existence through the eyes of a creature for which such stress is but an afterthought in relation to what mattered most—his friendship and bond with a loving and thoughtful artist. Wegman certainly channels brilliantly the very essence of that very sentiment; would that the sentiment were more readily abundant in us all.
To learn more or to view available works, connect with the team at Hamilton-Selway Fine Art today!