Wegman shows witty
films, photos, drawings and paintings
a 1994 photograph by William Wegman, is on display through
Nov. 5, along with two others by the artist, at the Bayly
Art Museum as part of its "Charlottesville Collects"
William Wegman, known for his campy photographs of Weim- eraners
posed in all manner of dress and situation, revealed during his
visit to Charlottesville that there's much more to him than his
famous dog pictures.
screened several videos Oct. 28 as part of the 13th annual Virginia
Film Festival and the next day gave the Bayly Art Museum's
Gladys S. Blizzard lecture.
his background is in painting, Wegman started making videos in
the 1970s, and offered several brief, hilarious examples Saturday
night from talking lamps to fake commercials.
spoofs academia in one video that shows the artist and slides
of his paintings darkened beyond recognition while he describes
them in a grave voice, employing the weighty language of art criticism.
The artist drones on, occasionally saying "next slide please,"
only to have another little opaque black square block his figure.
who admitted during his talk that he's never worried about the
critics' views because he's always felt he had talent, said, "With
video, I saw I could make something out of nothing unlike anything
that had ever been done before."
The artist also showed a 20-minute film featuring his Weimeraners
called "The Hardly Boys," in which dogs in girls' clothing
("They're hardly boys -- they're girls and dogs") solve
a mystery. The dogs' facial expressions, ranging from quizzical
to amused to serious, make the film.
get these expressions, Wegman used a number of strategies. "With
Chundo, if I move far away, he'll squint and look mean, whereas
if I get up close he'll look friendly," he said, adding that
he might smear cheese on a book to get a dog to look at it.
doesn't use dog treats, though, because his dogs, which he's featured
in his art since 1970, enjoy posing for him. "Weimeraners
are hunting dogs, so they like to work," he said. "They're
like clay. I move their heads and they stay there."
Ray, his second dog, would always look directly into the lens
of the camera. "She was very aware of what she was doing
and wanted to do a good job," he said.
Ray, his first dog, also enjoyed working with him, because it
meant having Wegman's undivided attention. "He learned to
manipulate me," the artist said. "If he wanted my attention,
he'd hover over a glass coffee table with a boulder in his mouth."
said photographing his dogs made him grow more attached to them.
"They're like movie stars. They become sort of captured in
the images and become more loveable somehow."
showed slides of dozens of drawings and paintings during his Sunday
talk. The drawings are simple and witty, like one done in pencil
that depicts children slumped over desks of varying shapes --
a triangle, a kidney, a circle -- and the caption "shape
of desk doesn't matter, kids still get bored."
drawing depicts an ant with fleas trying to scratch itself.
"I wanted for people to be able to look at [my work] and
grasp the idea immediately," to not linger over the formal
qualities, he said. "I'm an amuser. Anything that's in front
of me, I can flip around. ... If the trees look like hair, I'll
[paint] in a bobby pin."
recent paintings were post cards around which he'd painted scenes
that embellish those on the cards, like a card of a banana tree
whose extended, painted branches hold impossibly large bananas.
like to start with something that's incomplete and not quite good
and turn it around."
doesn't exhibit his paintings anymore. "It's hard to have
more than one audience," he said, alluding to the popularity
of his Weimeraner photos. "It's actually liberating not to
show my work."