William Wegman’s Ode to Maine

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“William Wegman: Hello Nature” focuses on the work the famed artist produced in Rangeley. Don’t be afraid to laugh along.

By Will Bleakley
Image: Fox Hole, 2002, Chromogenic print, Courtesy William Wegman Studio

You’ll often see someone with an amused smirk at an art gallery. Oh, I get it. That juxtaposition is so clever, the smile says. Rarely, though, does an exhibit elicit physical laughter. Yet during a recent visit to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art for the “William Wegman: Hello Nature” exhibition, the sounds of laughing patrons were impossible to ignore. Children, perhaps seeing Wegman’s famous Weimaraner photos for the first time, giggled at the sight of a dog, dressed in a flannel L.L.Bean shirt and fishing vest, posing as a Maine motel clerk. Their grandparents, across the room, chuckled as they flipped through Wegman’s parody of a nature book titled Field Guide to North America and to Other Regions. It’s hard to imagine a prestigious art exhibit succeeding at generation-spanning comedy, but from the sounds of high-and-low pitched squeals of approval across the museum floor, “Hello Nature” achieves just that.

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Will Bleakley is the associate editor at Down East magazine.

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