More than 1,500 people visited the Bowdoin College Museum of Art for the opening weekend of the new William Wegman show, roughly 100 more than came out for the opening of the Edward Hopper exhibition last summer.
William Wegman: Hello Nature includes over one hundred pieces of art — photographs, drawings, prints, prose and paintings — created in or inspired by Maine. The show opened July 13 and will continue until Oct. 21.
Liza Nelson, the Museum’s shop manager, said she’s observed more families with children, and sometimes grandparents, coming in than is typical for the museum, chalking up the art’s multi-generational appeal to its accessibility. Martina Duncan, the Museum’s associate director, agreed: “Being a parent, I know it’s a great show to introduce children to the museum. It’s fun and funny, but there’s depth to it.”
Suzanne Bergeron, the Museum’s assistant director, noted the frequent sounds of delight coming from the rooms of the exhibition. Meandering through the show, it’s common to overhear quiet chuckling and even outright laughter, from the young and the old.
“It’s a show for everybody,” Bowdoin’s Museum of Art Curator Joachim Homann said. Kids recognize and are delighted by the Weimaraners — Wegman’s famously blue-eyed, sleekly furred gray dogs that he uses as models in some of his photographs. But adult visitors have the opportunity to look beyond the dogs, whom Wegman refers to as his “art partners.”
“The Weimaraners are pop icons. But the exhibition shows how the Weimaraners as a concept fits into the larger body of work Wegman has created over the past 30 years,” Homann explained. “People will come away with a much deeper understanding of this strategy of humanizing dogs in work that unsettles all sort of categories.”
Diana Tuite, the Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon curatorial fellow, co-curated the exhibition with Kevin Salatino, the Museum’s former director. She said that while Wegman’s dog photographs “embody the conceptual themes that preoccupy Wegman — doubling, disjunction, camouflage, for instance — and in so doing they advance questions about nature as a cultural construction onto which we as a society project certain values.”
Homann said that Wegman, who splits his time between Rangeley, Maine and New York City, has managed to integrate the beauty of Maine with a New York City-insider perspective. “There are remarkable puns and references to the development of art since the 1970s,” he said.
Bowdoin students interning at the Museum are offering tours of the Hello Nature exhibition Tuesdays through Fridays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wegman and the museum have also developed a unique catalog of the show, which Homann described as more than a “fantastic representation of the contents of the exhibition. It’s as creative, fun and surprising as the exhibition itself.”