Masterwork’s latest exhibition features Bermuda-centric artwork by the world-famous visiting artist

On view at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art is WILLIAM WEGMAN Around Bermuda, an exhibition conceived by Julie Sylvester and Mandy Cawthorn Argenio and organised and curated by Julie Sylvester. It features postcard paintings made by the artist and reflects his ongoing engagement with Bermuda, one of his self-professed favourite subjects.

A leader in the Conceptual Art movement of the 1960s and 70s, William Wegman, born in 1943, is known for pushing boundaries. His photographs of his Weimaraners are renowned for their pictorial detail and for toying with art’s traditional rules and subjects. His painting practice continues in this vein. For over twenty years Wegman has incorporated historical postcards into his compositions, resulting in new and sometimes surreal views of familiar environments.

Bermuda’s status as one of the world’s leading destinations makes it an ideal match for Wegman’s creative vision. In the twentieth century, postcards allowed that newly minted category of traveller, the “tourist,” to claim places they had visited and transport them, through the wonders of modern printing and the commercial postal service, to loved ones at home. During this period, millions of tourists sent postcards picturing Bermuda around the globe. Masterworks’ large collection of postcards attests to the range of images from which they could choose, including natural wonders such as Bermuda’s caves, historical destinations such as St. George’s and tourist meccas like the Castle Harbour Hotel. No site of natural, historical or cultural interest went unpictured in these travelling advertisements, and Wegman has employed their variety and ubiquity to reimagine Bermuda.

A leading example of Wegman’s postcard paintings is Around Bermuda (2018). This exhibition marks the Bermuda unveiling of this painting, which has been acquired by Masterworks Museum as a core piece of the Permanent Collection and as a legacy for the Bermudian public. This monumental oil painting is a veritable tapestry of Bermudian imagery, surreally weaving together different time periods and places. Connecting these scenes is the common theme of water, in the form of Bermuda’s surrounding seas and the arguable epicentre of the tourist experience, the swimming pool. In this work, Wegman has eloquently captured the importance of water to Bermuda’s history, culture and economy. The many shades of blue directly mirror Bermuda’s prismatic ocean and show his strength as a colourist. This beautiful, detailed and intriguing painting can only be truly appreciated in person.

The exhibition also features thirteen works on paper which Wegman made after his first visit to Bermuda in 2000. These artworks, which were also exhibited at the Ace Atrium Gallery and profiled in The Bermudian in 2000, provide a different lens on historical Bermuda. In Smallest Home (2000), for instance, ever smaller houses challenge the title of Bermuda’s purported smallest. Wegman’s fantasy worlds sometimes take the form of little islands, which is appropriate for a country made up of 181 islands, many with a distinct history and even a distinct ecology.

Around Bermuda, both the exhibition and the painting, are testaments to Wegman’s captivation by Bermuda. In preparation for his exhibition, he has created four new postcard paintings and an artist’s book, Around Bermuda (2023), in which he engages with a new form of Bermudian ephemera, the tourist catalogue. Through this book and Wegman’s postcard paintings we have the rare opportunity to become tourists in our own home, travelling through a kaleidoscopic world of scenes which mix the real with the surreal, reality with imagination.

Around Bermuda is open to the public until November 25, 2023. It is generously funded by Sue Judah through the RDJ Foundation. Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art is open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.