Thursday, December 13, 2018

Five Years and a Library

It was five years ago tonight that George looked at me for the last time.  His eyes were bright and beautiful and child-like in their curiosity and faith.  For a long time, I struggled to remember anything but those last twenty-four hours.  I couldn’t get past that look, and especially my own fear that the faith he placed in me was misplaced, and that I made bad decisions that caused him pain.

Five years.  It’s nothing, really.  It’s yesterday.

At some point, finally, the stronger memories became the life we shared.  Beyond the actual experiences, I remembered the small, repeated things that I counted on, and that I miss the most ---his laughter, his conversation, the way he shook the ice cubes in his soda, the circular motion of his fingers scratching his head, the way he sheeshed and mmmed, and yes, the way he looked at me, and kissed me, the way his hand held the paintbrush, and then held me, just so, and the way he said my wife (George addressed me by my name only twice --- the day we married, and the day he died), and the way he reminded me and lectured me, always while pointing in my face:  When are you going to realize who you are?

George trusted me to care for his legacy and, I believe, to expand his vision.


As of last month, through the George Rodrigue Life & Legacy Tour, I’ve now shared his story and paintings with sixty-three schools, plus museums, universities, and community groups --- in Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and throughout Louisiana.  The tour continues in 2019, expanding into Texas and California, with additional events in Florida and Louisiana.

Just like every person is special, every venue is special, and I’m beyond grateful for the tremendous response, and especially for the opportunity to see first hand how George Rodrigue inspires. His life and art are a testament to how one person can overcome obstacles to not only achieve their dreams, but also make a positive difference in the world.  George understood the transformative potential of art.  He didn’t believe in excuses, or even in trying.  He believed in doing.

Five years.  It’s everything, really.  It’s now.

The photograph above was taken in 2010 at The Dufrocq School in Baton Rouge.  Today, Dufrocq is a shining example of Louisiana A+ Schools – teaching all subjects through the visual and performing arts.  Last month they honored the person who brought art and inspiration to their school.  They renamed their library The George Rodrigue Media Center.

I can’t say that this recent Dufrocq School experience was my favorite, simply because to rate this wide collection of students and teachers and venues and communities would be impossible.  Every one of the sixty-three school experiences has been transformative, inspirational, and memorable.  However, the dedication of The George Rodrigue Media Center is a joyous and lasting tribute to a joyous and lasting spirit, and somehow these feel like the right photos to share today, on the eve of five years.

Thank you to the students, teachers, administrators, and everyone associated with The Dufrocq School, as well as the East Baton Rouge School Board, Louisiana A+ Schools, and the Baton Rouge community.

-photographs by Douglas Magnus; click to enlarge-







...and a mini, mini video that perhaps best captures the spirit!


Five years.  It's no mystery, really.  It's love.


See you on the road in 2019-
Wendy
-Learn more about the George Rodrigue Life & Legacy Tour, including scheduling, videos, and an all-new photo gallery here- https://georgerodrigue.com/life-legacy/today/

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art – Extended!

There’s no doubt that if George Rodrigue were here today, he would have painted for his current exhibition at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.  We talked about it some fifteen years ago as we watched the museum under construction, and again as we attended its opening exhibitions.  He dreamed of showing his work in this contemporary jewel-box space, while at the same time, in typical George-fashion, forbade me from submitting a request.  (“Asking a museum for a show is the kiss of death,” he often said.)

-click photos throughout to enlarge-
Designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, OOMA’s reflective metal pods sprout between massive ancient oaks in an unlikely place- overlooking the beautiful white-sand beaches of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  The museum is a tribute to George Ohr (1857-1918), the self-proclaimed ‘Mad Potter of Biloxi,’ and a forerunner of contemporary art through his distinctive art pottery, on view within the permanent collection.


Two years ago, as George predicted, the museum proposed a Rodrigue exhibition.  However, without him here to create and design, the challenge was immense. How do we best present Rodrigue within this ultra-contemporary, high-ceilinged, single room space?  How do we surprise an audience just ninety miles from New Orleans that thinks they’ve seen it all?
In the past, most Rodrigue museum exhibitions have been retrospectives, from Cajuns to Blue Dogs, spanning forty-five years of paintings and sculpture.  It was clear from the beginning that this type of exhibition was incongruous with not only this atypical Gehry space, but also with George Rodrigue’s lifelong artistic rebellion.

As has happened repeatedly since losing George in 2013, we found the solution within his art.  Rodrigue’s Blue Dog:  Discovering Late Works on Canvas and Metal features twenty-five original artworks, many from the last year of George’s life and never before on public view.  Enjoy a glimpse of the exhibition in this short video for WLOX-TV Gulf Coast Weekend-
Also, a new interview, recorded live from the museum, with NPR for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, beginning at 18:19, linked here-
http://www.mpbonline.org/blogs/mississippiedition/mississippi-edition-monday-july-30th/


With more than twice the museum’s previous attendance, the Rodrigue exhibition is a showstopper!  Originally set to close August 15th, I’m thrilled to announce its extension, due to popular demand, through October 6, 2018.  
In addition, please join me at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art for a special encore Gallery Talk on Saturday, September 8, 2018 at 3:30 p.m.  Surrounded by these extraordinary late Rodrigue paintings, I'll share personal stories and insights from my wondrous journey with George.  A book signing follows, featuring The Other Side of the Painting (UL Press).

I also look forward to visiting Biloxi for education outreach in partnership with the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art and the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, September 11-13.  For information, please contact OOMA’s Education Director, Pamela Cevallos, at 228-374-5547, ext. 108 or education@georgeohr.org
Finally, none of this would have happened without the dedicated, enthusiastic OOMA staff, lead by Director Kevin O'Brien, nor without the passion and hard work of everyone associated with Rodrigue Studios, especially our Curator of Exhibitions, Dana Holland-Beickert of Memphis, Tennessee.  With tremendous thanks to all of you, on behalf of myself, everyone who experiences this exceptional and unprecedented installation, and above all, the brave, creative genius, George Rodrigue.
"If you try to paint to please a public or a critic, you'll never create anything lasting, anything new, or anything purely your own." -G.R.
Wendy
-pictured above:  George Rodrigue with The Last Puzzle Piece; Carmel, California, 2013-
-learn more and purchase the OOMA exhibition poster ($50) at the ALL-NEW George Rodrigue website!  Linked here-
-for a related post, see "Remembering Old Biloxi," linked here-
-please join me in September for these events:
9/8, 3;30 p.m.  Gallery Talk and Book Signing, Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, 386 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, MS, Tel 228.374.5547  FREE  Learn more here-
9/10, 5:30 p.m.  George Rodrigue Life & Legacy Presentation with Book Signing, Neal Auction Company, 4038 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA, FREE.  Seating is limited. RSVP fineart@nealauction.com  Learn more here-
-plus, Louisiana Children's Museum date, time, and details coming soon.
-OOMA video by Corey Hudson; most photographs by Douglas Magnus-


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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sharing George: A Video

The Life & Legacy Tour began because I felt compelled to help others experience George Rodrigue in a more personal way.  After eight months, the tour is in demand more than ever, with no end in sight!  And perhaps that's exactly as it should be.

Want to know what it's like?  Here's a video from Dr. Jules Boquet of Messiah Montessori School, a Louisiana A+ School in Houma, Louisiana.  Turn up the volume, stick with it (about 30 minutes), and grab a tissue ....just in case.  The kids ask poignant and meaningful questions that take us together on an intimate journey into the life and art of George Rodrigue.  

Topics include Jolie Blonde, Blue Dog, Rodrigue Jewelry, and the story behind one of his greatest paintings, Loup-garou; plus George's relationship to Louisiana, California, New Mexico, and the road; his painting style, work habits, outlook on life, thoughts on success, and even his illness.

Note:  It was this pivotal experience that sparked the idea of bringing original Rodrigue paintings into classrooms --something I've done ever since.  Watch here-


The Life & Legacy Tour continues this fall, not only in Louisiana, but in other states as well, taking me to colleges and universities, community groups, museums, and schools --sharing George's story while using original paintings from his archives as a visual aid.  I'll post a schedule late summer.  In the meantime, please join me for the following:

Friday, June 15th, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Opening reception for Rodrigue's Blue Dog:  Discovering Late Works on Canvas and Metal, an exhibition at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi, featuring 25 large scale late works by George Rodrigue, many on view for the first time.  Exhibition continues through Aug. 18, 2018.  Learn more.

Saturday, June 16th, 1:00 p.m.  A personal tour of the exhibition Rodrigue's Blue Dog:  Discovering Late Works on Canvas and Metal at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.  A book signing follows.  Learn more.

Thursday, June 21st, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.  Celebrate the Summer Solstice!  Please join me for a personal tour of the exhibition Rodrigue's Swirling Vision:  The Sun, Cosmos, and Hurricanes, on view at Rodrigue Studio New Orleans through October 27, 2018.  Learn more.


See you on the road as we celebrate the Life and Art of George Rodrigue!

Wendy

-related interview for NPR with Judith Meriwether for KRVS Radio Acadie, linked here-

-related video:  a Life & Legacy interview with Jeff Crouere for WLAE-TV, linked here-

-see photographs and updates from the 2017-2018 Life & Legacy Tour Part One and Part Two-

-Louisiana A+ Schools (LAA+) is a statewide arts-integrated teaching method supported in part by the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts; learn more-

-please join me on Instagram at @wendy.rodrigue for Life & Legacy photos, Rodrigue exhibitions, personal throwbacks and more-




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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Life and Legacy

George Rodrigue’s life, art, and philanthropy touch lives every day. In a reality that, from my perspective, is both exhilarating and unsettling, I see him moving into near-mythic status, grouped in art lessons with Van Gogh, Picasso, and Matisse.  I’ve always known that he belongs with these artists ---Modernist giants whose output enriches our world, pulling us away from our phones and computers, luring us to museums and art books, and tempting us to explore our own creative paths.  The arts inspire us, if we let them, to make ourselves vulnerable, to reveal the personal, and as Picasso famously said and George often quoted, “to paint like a child.”

This month I resume the George Rodrigue Life and Legacy Tour with twelve extended stops, primarily focused on schools in Louisiana.  It all began last fall as a way of sharing George’s life and art (and image!) with students at arts integrated schools throughout the state.  Louisiana A+ Schools, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is a whole-school teaching method in which every subject is taught through the visual or performing arts.  

I’m always grateful for opportunities to share George with others, and I couldn’t resist expanding the tour when possible to include schools outside of the LAA+ network.  It’s a wonderful experience ---as exciting for me as for the students--- many of them exposed for the first time ever to original Rodrigue paintings, which I carry with me in George’s truck ---the same truck he and I traveled in for years, visiting schools across the country.

Pictured:  Crossing Texas, 2010; St. Francisville, Louisiana, 2017



Because my last tour-post focused exclusively on LAA+ Schools, I missed sharing with you some of the other stand-out stops along the way.  Here’s a collection of previously unpublished photographs from the George Rodrigue Life and Legacy Tour, to be continued this spring, as noted on the schedule at the bottom of this post.  ENJOY! -Wendy

-click photos to enlarge-

A grand welcome at River Oaks School in Monroe, LA.  Related story: "Blue Dog Painter's Story Inspires River Oaks Students" from the Monroe News-Star. Also notice their beautiful hand-painted ceiling tiles.



A bit intimidating, but whoa, so fun at Ridge Elementary School in Duson, LA (a LAA+ School), sharing Rodrigue paintings while enjoying Pajama Day! ...if only I had known...



Caddo Career & Technology Center in Shreveport, LA, with Justin Kimes, the 2017 Grand Prize Winner of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts Scholarship Art Contest.  Enjoy a closer look at his winning artwork celebrating the New Orleans Tricentennial, and learn more here



Enthusiasm abounds at J. Wallace James Elementary School in Lafayette, LA (a LAA+ School), where students study original George Rodrigue paintings.  Related story:  "Rodrigue Stops by Lafayette Schools, Celebrates Student Art" from the Daily Advertiser.



No shortage of eager volunteers at Rollins Place Elementary School in Zachary, LA (a LAA+ School). Related story:  "Legacy Tour Chance to Extend Life of Rodrigue, Blue Dog" from The Advocate, Baton Rouge.



I felt particularly honored to visit my father's alma mater, Martin Behrman Academy of Creative Arts and Sciences in New Orleans, LA (a LAA+ School).  Also pictured, Principal Brian Young with George Rodrigue's historic post-Katrina print, We Are Marching Again!



There's a special place in my heart for Homer A. Plessy Community School (a LAA+ School), located in the New Orleans French Quarter.  On this visit, third grader Colin Dulaney moves me to tears with his concept for a George Rodrigue Monument as part of the book, Courageous, Eccentric, Diverse:  New Monuments for New Orleans.



Morris Jeff Community School in New Orleans has a 'super-cool' art teacher, Dennis Ward (standing).  Also pictured:  our very own Shemsi Frezel of Rodrigue Studio helps unveil George's self-portrait, now installed permanently in the school.



I received treasured gifts of outstanding original drawings from students at Lake Charles Charter Academy in Lake Charles, LA (a LAA+ School).



At Bains Lower Elementary in St. Francisville, LA (a LAA+ School), I was thoroughly entertained with an impromptu dance, and enjoyed a fantastic turn-out of community support!



The Dufrocq School (a LAA+ School) in Baton Rouge, LA. shows real passion for all of the arts, but especially for the art of George Rodrigue ...and for the man himself.  Look for a surprise announcement, as they honor George in a most unique and lasting way. Stay tuned!



There could not have been a better conclusion to this segment of the George Rodrigue Life and Legacy Tour than at Holy Angels in Shreveport, LA. with real-life Angel Artists Elaine and Bobby!



***
UPCOMING SCHEDULE

I hope to see some of you at these events. In the case of schools, please contact those locations directly for details. Otherwise, the events in BOLD are open to the public.

3/15 St. Helena Learning Center; St. Helena Arts and Technology Academy (both LAA+ Schools), Greensburg, LA

3/20 St. Peter School, Covington, LA

3/21 Ascension Episcopal School, Youngsville/Lafayette

3/22 Most Blessed Sacrament School, Baton Rouge

3/23 Singing River Academy (Gautier, MS) at Rodrigue Studio, New Orleans

3/24 George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts Scholarship Art Contest Awards Luncheon, New Orleans.  Details and tickets here.

3/24 New exhibition opens at Rodrigue Studio, New Orleans, 6-8 p.m. FREE (plus free exhibition poster while supplies last!) Rodrigue’s Swirling Vision: The Sun, Cosmos, and Hurricanes. Learn more.

3/26 Epiphany Day School (a LAA+ School), New Iberia

3/27 LSU Continuing Education, OLLI Felicianas Chapter, First Baptist Church, St. Francisville. 10a.m. – 12p.m. FREE.  Learn more.

Additional dates TBA:

The Dufrocq School (a LAA+ School), Baton Rouge
LSU Women’s Center, Baton Rouge

*most photographs by Douglas Magnus





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Friday, October 20, 2017

Don’t Slow Me Down

In the spring of 2013 George Rodrigue and I drove our truck cross-country from New Orleans, Louisiana to Carmel, California, as we had twice annually for twenty years, finding adventure on alternate routes and detours along the way. 


We didn’t know that this would be our last road trip; however, we did travel with a secret.   We learned while passing through Houston that George’s cancer had returned.  But we told no one, opting to shelve this unwelcome news, as well as the impending treatments, until after the drive.

We made the most of every moment ---not because we didn’t think he would beat it (we did!), but because that’s how we rolled on these road trips, as we focused on our conversations, on the scenery, and on the world spread before us.  -photograph by George Rodrigue, southern Utah, 2013-


In Mojave, sixty miles east of Bakersfield, California, on Hwy 58, we stopped at a roadside stand and perused ceramic statuary.  
Ignoring the 100-degree heat, George became captivated by the life-size, colorful tortoises on display.  He purchased two adults and a baby, emptying and rearranging the loaded truck to fit them.

That evening, after we arrived home in California following three weeks on the road, he placed the tortoises beneath the lace oaks surrounding his studio.  During the following months, he photographed them and played with designs in his computer.  He placed one of the images in a TO DO file on his desktop, where I later discovered it.


(Pictured:  Don’t Slow Me Down, designed 2013 by George Rodrigue, printed 2017 by his estate, 26x38 inches, edition 90, learn more-)

Simultaneously, George explored the tortoises in paint.  This related unfinished painting is one of three he was working on in the last months of his life. The original canvas and the baby ceramic tortoise are on view at Rodrigue Studio New Orleans until March 2018 during the special exhibition Rodrigue’s Heartland:  Under the Oaks and Out of the Swamp.


Another uncompleted painting is a dog-in-a-landscape, which sits on George’s easel at the Bayou Teche Museum in New Iberia, Louisiana, where his California studio was moved and reassembled last year as a permanent installation in his hometown.


Finally, the third unfinished painting is a return to the traditional Rodrigue landscape, with tombs beneath the oaks and a river extending towards a small, bright horizon.  That canvas, as well as three completed artworks, accompanies me on a statewide Louisiana school tour this fall.  Learn more.


Are you afraid?  I asked George one evening in December 2013, as I lay my head on his chest, matching my breath to his.  

"No!"  he replied.  "It’s an adventure!"

Among his last artworks, Don’t Slow Me Down is a poignant reference to Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. This happy image, created as George’s health severely declined, speaks of life's journey, combined with the value of patience, perseverance, and humility ---- all while traveling the road to a brighter future. 

But we take all our adventures together, I replied.

“But you can’t come on this one, Wendy…."


“…Not yet.”

Wendy


"Once in his life, a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe.  He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it.  He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it.  He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind.  He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk."  -N. Scott Momaday

-Rodrigue's Heartland:  Under the Oaks and Out of the Swamp honors George Rodrigue's lifelong exploration in paint and sculpture of the Louisiana Landscape, both real and imagined. On view through March 17, 2018 in New Orleans. Learn more.


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