Today is the first installment of our Featured Artist series! Each month I will showcase a different photographer or artist. This may be someone who has influenced the photography industry, other photographers, or the fine art world as a whole. In addition, I’ll be featuring artists who have made an impact on the world around them or have used their talents to fight for social justice and change. I think that it’s important to recognize the history of art, so that we can see why we like the photographs or artwork that we do today. We can respect past artists and their contributions to society and see their work reflected in modern portraiture.
The first artist to be featured is none other than my original inspiration for becoming a photographer, William Wegman. William Wegman may easily be best known for his photographs of weimaraners. Beginning with Man Ray, and moving on to the more famously known Fay Ray, Wegman juxtaposed his dogs against human situations, objects, finally further animating them through the use of his assistants, showing the dogs to have actual human limbs. He has authored numerous children’s books revolving around the dogs, and his work can be seen in children’s programming such as Sesame Street.
However, Wegman’s work with dogs began long before Sesame Street, and his artistic career was not spawned by canines. Wegman graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 1965 with a BFA in painting. He then received his masters in painting and printmaking from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1967 (1). His artistic journey took him to Long Beach, California, where he adopted Man Ray (named after the famed photographer) and taught at CSULB. In Long Beach, Wegman also created his first video, “Split Screen” (2). Man Ray became the pulse of Wegman’s photography for twelve years, and even became the Village Voice’s “Man of the Year” in 1982 (3). through Wegman’s move back to the East Coast to New York, where his predecessor Fay Ray began her career. Fay Ray was the center of Wegman’s Polaroid series, as Wegman began work with a 20×24 Polaroid camera.
Thanks to Fay and her offspring, the “family” of weimaraners grew. This brought Wegman to begin his series of children’s books, videos, and specials. His shorts even spanned as far as Saturday Night Live, Nickelodeon, and the Sundance Film Festival (2). William’s work has become so successful that it is held in permanent collections in the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and in the Hammer Museum.
Works Cited: – http://www.wegmanworld.com/biography - http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/wegman/index.html (1) – http://people.wcsu.edu/mccarneyh/fva/W/WWegman_bio.html (2) – http://www.artinfo.com/galleryguide/19450/5997/193986/sperone-westwater-new-york/artist/william-wegman/biography/ (3)