Reader alert. If you’re a pet owner given to seeing animals as people, you should skip this commentary.

The models in photographer William Wegman’s famed portraits were never human. Instead, he pictured dogs in people’s clothing, claiming he saw canines as individuals and dressed them accordingly.

Going ape

Projecting human ways onto non-humans seems a little like the apes in the 2001 movie “Planet of the Apes” dominating a race of primitive humans.

Of course, Walt Disney projected human traits on animals all the time. The fawn in the 1942 flick “Bambi” is shown joining his friends – a rabbit and a skunk – to explore the woods like curious children.

But wait. Wegman now makes art without a dog in sight in his current show at Sperone Westwater in New York. Even so, it’s hard to talk about him without mentioning his dog pictures. Art in America headlined its review of his NY show, “Who took the dogs out?”

Emily Watlington, the associate editor at Art in America, calls the absence of dogs an “attempt to remind viewers that, despite his reputation as reigning dog portraitist, Wegman is in fact a serious artist.”

I’m not so sure. One of the works featured an abstract acrylic and charcoal on wood titled “OMG 2021” that looks an awful lot like John Marin’s chaotic abstract oil paintings with their look of watercolors, which are said to have inspired Abstract Expressionism.

But Watlington had a different take on Wegman’s “OMG 2021.” Instead of a chaotic abstraction, she saw “a suburban house that has just been ravaged by some climate catastrophe.” In that case, Marin’s work is also about climate catastrophe. The similarity is that strong.

All that said about Wegman’s non-canine work, his dog portraits are still in the Sperone Westwater show – a retro of his work from the early 1970s to the present, which includes drawings, paintings, and videos.

And, as long as Wegman continues to show canines disguised as humans – in effect saying that dogs aren’t good enough as they are – I’ll keep complaining about them.

Sperone Westwater’s website excused Wegman’s snickering dog pictures as an example of him “poking holes in the stuffier, more academic” art world. As I see it, he’s poking holes in the nobility of animals.

Serious artist?

Oblivious to that nobility, Watlington not only acknowledges that the dolled-up “sport silly human outfits,” but she also uses the dog photos as a standard to praise Wegman’s latter-day work, calling it “just as goofy,” adding, “thank goodness.”

Clearly, the Art in America editor is OK with making animals the butt of jokes.

More jokes. Watlington enthuses about a Wegman drawing of two men, one with a pipe, the other with a cigarette, captioned “twins with individual tastes.” She wonders if the drawing is meant to be an artwork or just a joke. The decides: “Who cares? It’s funny.”

From the way she writes, Watlington is big on irreverence, particularly toward what she calls the “self-righteous didacticism that so easily follows the pretense of an “artistic vision.” She tags that “egomaniacal.”

It sounds like this Art in America editor is burnt out – to a crisp.