FARMINGTON — A multimedia artist best known for his beloved photos of Weimaraner dogs will be the commencement speaker at the University of Maine at Farmington this spring.

William Wegman, a videographer, photographer, painter and writer with ties to central Maine, is scheduled to address graduates, faculty members and families May 18 in an outdoor ceremony behind the UMF Olsen Student Center, the school announced this week.

Kate Foster, the school’s president, said Wegman was chosen to receive an honorary degree at the school and deliver its commencement address because he embodies the school’s commitment to the arts and has close ties to central Maine, including relatives in the area and a summer home in the Rangeley Lakes area.

“We are thrilled and excited to have him. The arts matter here and we felt that Wegman, with his breadth of work in the arts, was a wonderful way to demonstrate that commitment,” she said.

Wegman, a native of Holyoke, Mass., is perhaps best known for his series of photographs, videotapes and children’s books featuring his Weimaraner dogs Man Ray and Fay Ray and later Fay Ray’s offspring. The dogs have appeared on “Sesame Street,” on Nickelodeon and in “The Colbert Report.”

Wegman received a degree in painting from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 1965 and a degree in painting from the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana in 1967 and began his career as an artist in Southern California.

His photography has been exhibited in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., The Whitney Museum of Art in New York and F.R.A.C. Limousine in France, as well as in several Maine galleries.

In 1983 and 1992 Wegman was a visiting artist at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, a nine-week summer residency program for emerging visual artists.

In 2007 the Maine Turnpike Authority purchased three murals by Wegman for installation at service plazas in West Gardiner and Kennebunk. A committee member for the turnpike said at the time that she believed one of the pieces was chosen because the dogs in the portrait posed in such a way that they resembled the rocks on the coast of Maine.

Not all of Wegman’s work revolves around dogs, though.

Most recently, a collection of his work called “Hello Nature” appeared last fall at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. The collection, which did include some pieces depicting the Weimaramers, featured 30 years of photography, video, painting and drawing produced in or inspired by Maine.

“In his work, we often see that Maine has been his muse and we wanted to celebrate that,” Foster said. Many faculty members in the arts have taught Wegman’s work, and the artist also has a summer home nearby in the Rangeley Lakes, she said.

Perhaps most importantly, Foster said Wegman’s breadth of work across many media reflects the university’s similar dedication to a range of artistic expression. The school’s art department includes visual, music and theater areas and within those a variety of classes and curriculums.

Foster said she thinks students who don’t have an academic focus on the arts still will take something away from Wegman’s address.

“Not only does he connect to the state of Maine, but he is a master of the creative process. I think everyone can relate to that experience,” she said.

Wegman was unavailable for comment.

Also at the celebration, the university will award an honorary degree to Barbara W. Woodlee, the recently retired president of Kennebec Valley Community College and current chief academic officer for the Maine Community College System. Woodlee is the first woman to be president of a vocational institute and technical college in Maine. She is also a former chairwoman of the UMF Board of Visitors and a 1974 graduate of the school.

Timothy Grivois, a graduating senior from Norfolk, Mass., will give the student address. Grivois is a secondary-education major with a concentration in social studies. He is also a writing center tutor and plans to teach high school in Maine.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]

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