William Wegman (b. 1943, Holyoke, Mass.) graduated from Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, in 1965 with a BFA in painting. Two years later he received an MFA in painting and printmaking from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Beloved by the general public for signature photographs of his troupe of Weimaraners, Wegman is also an immensely important figure in the contemporary art world. While teaching at the University of Wisconsin and California State College at Long Beach in the 1970’s, he became an early exponent of conceptual art and a pioneering maker of video. While in Southern California he adopted Man Ray, his first pet Weimaraner, who became the central figure in Wegman’s photographs and videotapes. In 1972, Wegman and Man Ray moved to New York and continued a collaboration that was to last for twelve years.
In 1986, Wegman began to photograph his new dog, Fay Ray (and later her offspring), extensively using a Polaroid 20 x 24 camera, finding novelty in the aesthetic and narrative concerns that are inherent in the format. As both single and multi-panel works, the life-size portraits involve role-play and outright riotous humor, while simultaneously presenting a rigorous examination of formal concerns.
Since 1971, Wegman’s work has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions, including a retrospective organized by the Kunstmuseum Lucerne in 1990 which traveled to museums throughout Europe and the United States including the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His most recent exhibitions include traveling retrospectives in Japan and Sweden as well as the exhibition “William Wegman: Fashion Photographs” which traveled throughout North America. An exhibition of his early photographic work and his drawings was mounted by the FRAC Limousin in Limoges, France in 1993. Most recently in 2006, the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. organized the exhibition “Funney/Strange” which traveled to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Wexner Center for the Arts, and the Norton Museum of Art, FL.
Wegman’s work can be found in many public art collections throughout the United States and abroad, including the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Australian National Gallery, Canberra; Bank of America, San Francisco, CA; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Chase Manhattan Bank, New York; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris; Krannert Art Museum, Champagne, France; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris; Museum of Fine Art, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Polaroid Corporation, Boston, MA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Wegman is the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships (1975, 1986); two National Endowment for the Arts grants (1976, 1985); and has been honored by the New York Foundation for the Arts (1999).
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. In 1989, 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 1970s producing two new reels of video works in 1998 and 1999.
Wegman has written over a dozen children’s books in the mid-nineties, including Cinderella (1990); Little Red Riding Hood (1993); Farm Days (1997); Wegmanology (2001); Chip Wants a Dog (2003); and Dress Up Batty (2004).
Monographs include Man’s Best Friend (1982); $19.84 (1984); Everyday Problems: William Wegman (1984); William Wegman: Paintings, Drawings, Photographs, Videotapes (1990); Field Guide to North America and to Other Regions (1993); Photographic works: 1969-76 (1993); William Wegman: Fashion Photographs (1999); Fay (1999); William Wegman: Polaroids (2002); and Funney/Strange (2006).
Wegman lives and works in New York City and Maine.