Doggone Takin’ Me Back

Sometimes the most vague scent, sound or taste remembered from the past will transport you back to a time gone by. If you look on that time fondly, you might wish you could stay awhile. This happened to me when I visited the William Wegman exhibit at the Akron Art Museum.

I’ve been a fan of Wegman’s work since he first captured my attention 25 years ago on Sesame Street. Film clips of his dog Fay and his other Weimaraners illustrated the alphabet, counting and simple math, and also acted out nursery rhymes. Wegman himself did voice-overs to describe what the dogs were portraying. When my girls were little, Wegman’s blase monotone often brought me from another room to view his latest sketch.

William Wegman, born in Holyoke, Mass., in 1943, has always been fascinated with art. His exploration into the world of photography began the year he received a Polaroid camera for his birthday. Wegman attended the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and received his Masters of Fine Arts degree from University of Illinois in 1967.

In 1970, Wegman ventured to California. That same year he got his first Weimaraner. Naming him Man Ray, he set about making his dog the main figure in his most enduring photographs and videos.

Wegman’s move to New York in 1972 started the working relationship between the two, which continued over the next 12 years, including a “Man of the Year” award from the New York City newspaper the Village Voice.

In 1986, Wegman began a new collaboration with his new dog Fay Ray. He began using a Polaroid again and photographing first Fay and later her family of Weimaraner pups. Wegman’s dog family became the center of his works ranging from early video shorts to books to mainstream videos.

Wegman’s classic bits are his dogs, elevated to human height on any sort of pedestal, dressed in every variety of wardrobe with persons standing close behind the dogs to give the appearance that the human arms and hands are part of the dogs. The effect is priceless.

An extraordinary drawer and painter, Wegman has received numerous awards and grants from some of the most prestigious art institutions of the country. He has also had his works shown at some of the finest galleries in the world, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., The Whitney Museum of Art in New York, F.R.A.C. Limousine in France, and The Museum of Natural Art in New York.

Yet, Bill Wegman said in a recent interview he was most pleased that his work is being shown in smaller, perhaps, less traveled galleries of mid-America, now, currently in Akron, Ohio. William Wegman: Fay will be exhibited there through August 16. Visit www.AkronArtMuseum.org.

For another bit of fun, check out Wegman’s other works including his many books. I recommend a bit of Wegman for putting anyone in a good humor.

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