Nov. 3-9, 2000
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Sabato: And the next president will be ...
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Wegman shows witty films, photos, drawings and paintings
Documentary revises Disney myth
Advice for budding screenwriters
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IN THIS ISSUE

Wegman shows witty films, photos, drawings and paintings

By Nancy Hurrelbrinck

"Paw" by William Wegman
"Paw," 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" exhibit.

Artist 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.

Wegman 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.

Though 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.

He 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.

Wegman, 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.

To 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.

He 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."

Fay 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.

Man 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."

Wegman 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."

Wegman 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."

Another 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."

Among 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.

"I like to start with something that's incomplete and not quite good and turn it around."

Wegman 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."


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