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Experimentation & Representation: The Photography of William Wegman

From May 24, 2024 to September 3, 2024

Location: Spotlight Gallery (Floor 1M)

What do images of dogs teach us about art, our world and ourselves? Famous for his images of Weimaraners, William Wegman is one of America’s most popular photographers.

This summer, The Rockwell Museum and the Arnot Art Museum examine two facets of Wegman’s impressive career. At the Arnot Art Museum, visitors can explore Wegman’s depictions of his favorite models, a study in what it means to be human. The Rockwell Museum features more abstract photographs, experimental collaborations in which the dogs become the work of art.

William Wegman (born 1943), Trio of One, 2000. Polaroid 20 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist.

William Wegman (born 1943), Contact, 2014. Pigment print. 44 x 34 in. Courtesy of the artist.

William Wegman (born 1943), Ocean View, 2015. Pigment print. 44 x 34 in. Courtesy of the artist.

William Wegman (born 1943), Eames Low, 2015. Pigment print. 44 x 34 in. Courtesy of the artist.

William Wegman (born 1943), Cursive Display, 2013. Pigment print. 44 x 34 in. Courtesy of the artist.

With a formalist’s eye and an affinity for bold color, the photographs of multi-media artist William Wegman allow his viewers the opportunity to think, laugh, and uncover the world around us with his Weimaraner models.

Wegman’s large format photographs are disarming and fun even as they shift into landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and object studies. The artist describes his work as a collaboration with his models, each having their own temperament and agency during the photographic process. Wegman has been working with Weimaraners since the 1970s, and many of his dogs, including Man Ray, Fay Ray and Flo, have become pop culture stars in their own right.

These are not just dog photos! Line, composition, color and form take center stage in the photographs on display. Wegman invites us to take in the building blocks of art and consider the formal qualities of what we are seeing. Through his lens, we investigate movements, ideas and themes throughout art history. Multiple sections of a dog’s body become a craggy coastline barring us from a roiling body of water. Two cubes and a dog combine to create a minimalist sculpture. A tri-colored back drop interrupted by a set of dog legs transform into an exploration of color. Whether playful, coy or serious, these Weimaraners encourage us to stop and look more closely at the art all around us.

Book a Group Tour

Explore this exhibition along with our permanent collection of American art on on a guided group tour led by one of our friendly and experienced Museum Docents, or on your own with a self-guided group tour.

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photograph of The Rockwell Museum

The Rockwell Museum

111 Cedar St, Corning NY 14830

Current Museum hours

9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

photograph of Arnot Art Museum

Arnot Art Museum

235 Lake St, Elmira NY 14901

Current Museum hours

Tuesday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday, Noon - 5 p.m. Closed Sunday & Monday

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This exhibition is made possible by Elise Johnson-Schmidt and Family

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About the Artist

William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist.

William Wegman

Born in 1943 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, William Wegman received a B.F.A. in painting from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston in 1965 and an M.F.A. in painting from the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana in 1967. In the fall of 1970 he moved to Southern California where he taught for one year at California State College, Long Beach.

It was while he was in Long Beach that Wegman got his dog, a Weimaraner who he named Man Ray, and began a long and fruitful collaboration. Man Ray, known in the art world and beyond for his endearing deadpan presence, became a central figure in Wegman’s photographs and videotapes. When Man Ray died in 1982 he was named “Man of the Year” by the Village Voice. It was not until 1986 that Wegman got a new dog, Fay Ray, and another collaboration began marked by Wegman’s extensive use of the Polaroid 20 x 24 camera. With the birth of Fay’s litter in 1989, Wegman’s cast grew.

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 1995, Wegman’s film The Hardly Boys was screened at the Sundance Film Festival. Wegman has been commissioned to create images for a wide range of projects including a fashion campaign for Acne, banners for the Metropolitan Opera and covers for numerous publications including The New YorkerWallpaper and, most recently, French Vogue. Wegman has appeared on The Tonight Show both with Johnny Carson and with Jay Leno, The David Letterman Show and The Colbert Report.

William Wegman lives in New York and Maine where he continues to paint, draw, make videos and take photographs with his dog Flo.