But the artist told reporters that he initially
shied away from the title of the exhibition - and the accompanying
catalogue - and took a while to warm up to the idea of not just
one, but his entire body of work, being labeled "Funney/Strange."
Examining one of Wegman’s most recent works, "Museum," Fairbrother pointed out how the artist’s use of vintage and new postcards were a commentary on all the different kinds of art people enjoy, whether it’s Michelangelo’s "David," paintings of cowboys, or two men chatting in a room full of hunting pictures. The mural also illustrates the way museums’ architecture, and the way art is displayed, has changed over time.
"And he throws himself into [the painting] by including a great dog Christmas card," said Fairbrother.
In the catalogue, Fairbrother adds, "I’m captivated by the curious fact that the maker of such mercurial, outlandish, and impudent creations often comes across in public as a quietly preoccupied guy."
Yet reporters always want to know about those captivating dogs. Whether representing Japanese television or photography journals, most of the questions at Wednesday’s press preview were about the weimaraners, starting with Man Ray in 1970, and moving to Faye Ray, and finally to Batty (short for Battina), who died two years ago.
Wegman told GO Brooklyn that it was fitting that there was so much of Batty in "Funney/Strange" because he was still heartbroken over her loss when the catalogue and this exhibition were coming together. In the exhibition, Batty is featured in 1999’s "Bikini"; she’s shot while wearing a leopard print bathing suit and a blonde wig, coyly looking over her shoulder.
The public clamors for details on how he trains the dogs - he currently has several that he’s working with - but there is only one room of the exhibit dedicated to his signature 20-by-24-inch canine portraits.
Mostly, "Funney/Strange" spans Wegman’s earliest years, the 1960s, to his most-recent landscape paintings, which often have intoxicatingly deep colors, especially his turquoise blue-green water and skies.
"Water is fun to paint," explained Wegman. "Somethings are more sensual to paint; water is one of the them."
The artist says that this retrospective comes at a time in his life when he’s "generally very happy," surrounded by his children (age 8 and 11) and dogs in his Chelsea home.
"It wasn’t always that way," he said.
"William Wegman: Funney/ Strange"
is on display at the Brooklyn Museum’s fifth floor (200 Eastern
Pkwy., at Washington Avenue, in Prospect Heights) through May
28. The artist will give a talk, followed by a book signing,
on March 11 at 3 pm. Admission is $8, $4 students with ID and
seniors, free children younger than 12. For information, visit
the Web site www.brookl
"William Wegman: Funney/Strange" by Joan Simon (Yale University Press, $40) is available at the Brooklyn Museum gift shop.
©2006 Community News Group
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