William Wegman: Fay
The Akron Art Museum is deeply honored to be one of only two venues to present William Wegman: Fay, a wonderfully witty and moving exhibition about the artistic collaboration between William Wegman (b. 1943) and his celebrated Weimaraner Fay (1984 - 1995).
The breadth of Wegman’s audience is truly remarkable. In addition to being internationally renowned in art circles, he is one of the few artists to successfully disseminate his work—especially the photographs, videos and books featuring his beloved Weimaraner dogs—through the mass media.
Wegman is a conceptual artist who works in many different media. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1943, he graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1965 with a BFA in painting. Subsequently, he enrolled in the Masters painting and printmaking program at the University of Illinois. In 1970, he moved to southern California and began exhibiting his photographs. He was one of the earliest artists to explore video and has used photography for over four decades.
While living in California, Wegman acquired Man Ray, a Weimaraner whom he named after the surrealist French photographer. The dog became his partner in both life and art during their 12 year collaboration. Man Ray became so famous that, upon his passing, he was named ‘Man of the Year’ by the New York City newspaper The Village Voice.
Grief-stricken by Ray’s death, Wegman made the decision not to get another dog, but some years later he came to meet another Weimaraner:
“When we first met in Memphis, Tennessee, she was six months old and her name was Cinnamon Girl. I named her Fay after Fay Wray, of course, but also after my first color Polaroid with Man Ray and the nail polish, which I had titled Fay Ray. Her fur was taupe, lighter and warmer-toned than Man Ray’s, and she had yellow eyes like in a Rousseau painting. I had no intention of photographing Fay. Man Ray was irreplaceable. I didn’t want to mar my memory of him.
…In a short time Fay matured from a coltish youth into a Garboesque beauty. My pictures grew with her. Now she was the muse, the adored one. Skin-deep beauty became the soul of my work.”
– William Wegman, Polaroids, New York, 2002
Fay had a chameleon-like quality very different from Man Ray's concrete presence. The bond between the artist and his muse is undeniable. Images of Fay balanced upon an ironing boarding in Sphinx (1987) and coolly starting into the lens from beneath a black net in Netted (1988) show her deep trust in Wegman. His work with Fay captures the canine in a spectrum of emotions. Her huge, expressive citron eyes convey in one shot tragedy and in the next, joy. A series of photographs show Fay swathed in human clothing, posed as a woman, with the human arms and legs of her co-model. The canine appears part human, her expression incredibly familiar. Fay also posed with a variety of props, from roller-skates to masks of fruit, flowers and other found objects.
The Akron Art Museum is fortunate to be able to include in this exhibition not just black and white photographs but also large format Polaroids and chromogenic (color) prints, from the artist’s personal collection. In addition to 56 still photographs, extensive selections from Wegman’s videos featuring Fay will be on continuous view in the exhibition.
William Wegman: Fay was organized by the Allentown Art Museum in collaboration with the William Wegman Studio, New York.
This exhibition is made possible by a generous gift from The Lehner Family Foundation, The Akron Beacon Journal / Ohio.com and the C. Blake, Jr. and Beatrice K. McDowell Foundation.
The Akron Art Museum and Western Reserve PBS collaboration is made possible by generous support from the Summa Foundation.