17 December 2005

William Wegman

The Robert Klein Gallery in Boston has an impressive list of artists on their list. Clicking around there, I noticed quite a few big names in photography, as well as some that sort of surprised me.

The first: NASA. In addition to prints from photography's masters, The Robert Klein gallery can get you some pictures from the surface of Mars or shots of the moon that definitely weren't taken on earth.

The second: William Wegman. I don't know why I bother being surprised. He's included in the text book for the Contemporary Art class I took as an undergrad. He photographs dogs in as many ways, settings, costumes, environments that he can conceive. Go check it out. He's sort of the Anne Geddes of dogs.

So that got me thinking. If Wegman can be art, why do I cringe at Geddes? What's so wrong with being cute anyway? What's so wrong with being commercial? What is so wrong with babies? Does making room for ugly art mean there is no room left for charming, pudgy, human and dog babies?


d.g. said...

Maybe Wegman and Geddes are frustrating because their success seems completely out-of-proportion with their creative merit. They are artists, but their greatest appeal is to people who don't care beans about art — they just like cute dogs and babies playing dress-up.

I'll ask you then, how are Wegman and Geddes different from the traditional masters who 'sold out' by painting for the deepest-pocketed patron around... the church? What is art when subject-matter trumps creativity?

I suppose one way to accept dogs/babies/mars/elvis/jesus-art as legitimate is to recognize that merit is not inherent in the artwork, the subject, or the artist; but is rather bestowed entirely by the observer. Eva Hess speaks to you with “Hang Up”, but not to me. Anne Geddes speaks to my mother, but not to you. Who makes a stronger statement: Jackson Pollock, or someone who molds plastic deer lawn-ornaments? Amazingly, it depends on who you ask. From this perspective, the question “Is this art?” is far less interesting than the question “To whom does this art matter?”

(As an aside, I apologize for littering your blog with comments that would roll the eyes of most first-year art students, but oddly enough, reading your posts has provoked far more thought from me than any of my art professors ever managed to elicit. Go figure.)

Jonas said...

Well said d.g.

Mary Ann said...

d.g, thanks for your comment, which is by no means litter. I'm glad they make you think, and your comments make me think, so yeah for that.

I very much agree with your statement about what the question actually is. In defining art, the goal is increasingly becoming to define an ever-narrowing subset of art.

You've given me several more ideas, so thanks for that.

Matthew said...

Here is some high-quality art:


Mary Ann said...


Josh said...

dg, i like your point. but to expand, it isn't just that geddes' success is disproportional to her creativite merit, it's that she limits her own creative merit to ensure success. you term it 'selling out.' but, to me, selling out is when you violate your own values for money or fame. sometimes the value IS money and fame. perhaps yanni is the musical equivalent of geddes. i think geddes is a genius, but i'm not an artist. there are people who worship the 'art' of yanni. those people make me giggle. it's like yanni have conned all these people and impeded the objectives of 'art'. perhaps, mary ann, that's why you don't like geddes. through her success with mediocre art, she is opposed to your seeming objective of educating the mes of the world to appreciate and think critically about art. perhaps she is your mortal enemy.

Josh said...

in other words, while wegman's and geddes' product seems similar, perhaps the artists' attitudes toward art are quite different. now we can get into art versus some kind of existential projection/perception of art.. and whether the former includes the latter... maybe another post?