Sunday, May 1, 2016

Blue Dog Hog

George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog Hog premiered in 1994 in a New York City gallery called The Time is Always Now.  This unique three-dimensional artwork dazzled at the center of the warehouse-type space, with George’s paintings, some as large as fifteen feet across, surrounding the bike.

-click photos throughout to enlarge-

The exhibition coincided with the release of the book Blue Dog (1994, Viking Penguin), George’s first U.S. publication on the Blue Dog Series, and his first major book since The Cajuns of George Rodrigue (1976, Oxmoor House).

Excited about the book, the space, and the big city, George painted and created specifically for the show.  Every piece was large-scale to take advantage of the colossal interior.  The Blue Dog Hog, intended by George as the exhibition’s showstopper, sat on a riser in the center of the room. 

I remember George lifting his petite publishing agent, Roz Cole, onto the riser during the star-studded and slammed opening night party, accessed by tracking blue paw prints for blocks throughout SOHO. 

At age sixty-six, Roz, a lifelong New Yorker and former MGM recording star, donned the hand-painted helmet over her bouffant-style wig, threw her bare legs and black stilettos over the seat of the Harley, and posed for half the night with a glass of red wine in one hand while waving her other hand in the air, as though she rode a mechanical bull.  

(I also recall her light blue VW bug parked out front, and how we all marveled that she actually drove to the exhibition and found a parking space).

“This is terrific!” shouted Roz from atop the bike.  Not one of the hundreds of folks in attendance, including actor Matt Dillon and artist/photographer Peter Beard, left the party without taking her picture.

Following the NYC exhibition, the bike returned, in 1995, to Louisiana.  …..but not to Butte la Rose, where George had painted it in the swamp at his camp on the Atchafalaya River, but rather to the New Orleans French Quarter, where it caused no end of frustration for our sales staff.  Every passerby fancied a photo-op on the Blue Dog Hog, similar to the Chicago cows of the late 1990s and the Rodrigue Steinway of 2012.

To this day, few people realize the vastness of George’s interests within his art.  The spectacular bike surprised the public.  Too often he’s dismissed as “the guy who paints the Blue Dog,” as though he lacks variety within his work.  The truth is, however, that his career cannot be divided neatly into 25 years of Cajuns and 25 years of Blue Dogs.  Rather, it’s 50 years of creative development ---on his canvas, in his personal interests, and within his community.  Just as he remained loyal to his childhood friends and his home state, he also remained true to his subjects.  He didn’t abandon one style for another; instead he kept adding.

This is the heart of the revolving exhibitions (since February 2014) currently within George’s galleries, focusing on themes such as Graveyards, Music, Sports, Politics, and Mardi Gras.  In each case, the paintings, borrowed from private collections, span decades, pulled from both the Cajun and Blue Dog Series, and yet tied together by George’s lifelong interests.

Similarly, the Blue Dog Hog incorporates all three Rodrigue identifiers.  The Oak Trees, prominent within his paintings and sculptures since the late 1960s, stretch like Oak Alley's promenade along the back fender.  The Blue and Red Dogs, prevalent since the early 1990s, echo each other throughout the composition.  The equally distinctive rolling red “Rodrigue" signatures are a strong design element within George’s Cajun posters of the 1970s and 80s, as well as within many of his Blue Dog silkscreens.

“I was never the best draftsman in art school,” George often recalled.  “But I always had the best ideas.”

Transforming these ideas into tangible works of art proved challenging.  In the case of the Hog, for example, George dissembled the bike before painting it, piecing his design together like a puzzle before rebuilding the motorcycle.  

The red dog and signatures clearly relate to the bike’s rear brake light, reinforcing George’s focus on design and concept.

Just as important is the emphasis on the bike’s chrome details, an obsession for George since the 1950s, and an element increasingly important within his work, especially within late series such as Swamp Dogs, Hollywood Stars, and a brilliant collection of mixed medias on shiny metal.

….proving once again that George enjoyed the challenge of growing creatively within the repetition of his favorite ideas.

“I know there’s going to be a Blue Dog in it,” he often said, referencing a blank canvas (or in this case, a motorcycle), “but beyond that, I haven't figured it out."  

"And that’s where the challenge lies.  That’s what keeps it fun for me.”


*photographs courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries-

-After twenty years in a private Wisconsin collection, the Blue Dog Hog hits the auction block on Sunday, May 22, 2016, presented by New Orleans Auction Galleries.  Learn more-

-More on Rodrigue and motorcycles here-

-Please join me, along with George’s sons André and Jacques, for the opening reception of “Rodrigue:  Spirit of the Game,” a new exhibition at Rodrigue Studio New Orleans spanning forty years of paintings, ranging in theme from boxing to bourré.  Thursday, May 19, 2016 from 6-8 p.m.  Details here-

Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I am Not the Artist.

Over the years countless people approached George Rodrigue with ideas for paintings.  They didn’t understand that George was original.  He was authentic.

“They all think they’re the artist,” he would say, shaking his head over the umpteenth person to “have a great idea,” insisting that he paint the Blue Dog with St. Louis Cathedral or the Eiffel Tower…. or on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach.

“I don’t even play golf!” he would say, to which they usually replied,

“….but you’d make a ton of money!”

(pictured:  Don’t Slow Me Down, 2013 by George Rodrigue; the last silkscreen design he completed ….and never printed; click photo to enlarge-)

In the first few weeks after losing George, I received three pieces of advice* that I return to repeatedly:

Stay close to the floor, messaged a teacher.  And on days when I can’t lift my head, I move slowly from the bed to my mat, sometimes, especially in those first few months, as late as five or six in the evening, and begin my practice.  And afterwards, always, I feel better.

(pictured, Death Valley, March 2015; click photo to enlarge-)

Relax the struggle, wrote a mentor.  And on days when the enormity of my loss crashes into the enormity of my responsibility, I remember that I am human.  And afterwards, always, I feel better.

(pictured, Sunshine is Mine, October 2012 by George Rodrigue, 16x20, acrylic on canvas; learn more-)

Don’t do anything you don’t want to do, stressed one of George’s doctors in a voicemail.  And on days when others stress how I should conduct my life, I give myself permission to follow my heart instead.  And afterwards, always, I feel better.

(pictured, Turquoise Hill in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2016; click photo to enlarge-)

Looking back, the advice was there all along from George, with himself as the example--- a grounded and down-to-earth person, immune to criticism, and true to his own vision within his art and life.

(pictured, Rodrigue & Camera - a file from George's computer; click to enlarge-)

We all recognize that no two people are alike, and yet why is it that we presume to understand aspects of the human condition as though they are universal standards?  Loss is different for everyone, no matter how familiar the circumstances may seem, and no matter what the outward perception. 

Facing others means dreading the question, How are you?  The answer is impossible, because the pain is unique and personal (not unlike George’s paintings), and the sense of loneliness and exposure and confusion undulates, so that this thing called grief becomes more of an appendage than a process.

“Do not fear, there is always wine
if you are thirsty for love.

Do not fear, there is always water
if your lips are parched.

Do not fear your ruin, inside you
there is a treasure.

Open your eyes, for this world
is only a dream.”

-Rumi (1207-1273)

“Stop this exploitation of your late husband!!!” demanded a Lafayette, Louisiana socialite recently, after my photo (below) appeared on facebook with a Rodrigue collector.

She later deleted the comment; yet this hometown sting, combined with its multiple exclamation points and my own relentless second-guessing of my actions, burned in my memory.  What if I’ve embarrassed George in his beloved Cajun community?  It was only the second time I’ve attended a Rodrigue Gallery function since October 2013 ----when George and I released The Other Side of the Painting together in Carmel, California ----and yet already I roused judgment and ire.

Relax the struggle.

(pictured:  with Lucy Trebotich, who graciously loaned her painting Santa Fe Guitar (1987) to the exhibition "Rodrigue:  Celebrating Music"; New Orleans, February 2016; learn more-)

“Protect yourself,” George often said to me, followed closely by “When are you going to realize who you are?”

It’s ironic that it took losing him for those words to sink in.


*for R.E. did we get here?

-how long will it be?... I often wonder...before I feel comfortable enough to cross my legs, or even my feet, in the moment-

-With a return to public life comes a full plate of events.  No, I am not the artist.  But hopefully, in helping others to better understand and appreciate George's life and art, I’m moving in the right direction in preserving and enhancing his legacy.  Proceeds from all events benefit the arts in education programs of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.  Please join me for the following:

April 15th:  “A Conversation with Wendy Rodrigue” including a book signing and reading from The Other Side of the Painting (UL Press, 2013);  The Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana 6:00 p.m.  Free.  Details here-

April 16th:  The 7th annual George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts Scholarship Luncheon at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, 11:30 a.m.  Tickets $50.  Details here-

May 19th:  “Rodrigue:  The Spirit of the Game” opens at Rodrigue Studio, New Orleans.  6-8 p.m.  Details posting soon here-

June 3rd and 4th:  “Weekend with Wendy” including children’s events, lectures, and book signings; The Longview Museum of Fine Arts in Longview, Texas.  Free.  Details here-

Best Blogger Tips

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Alligators Return

Following twenty years in a private collection, this week two special paintings by George Rodrigue hang for the first time ever in New Orleans.  See Lacoste Lineup (1991) and Spooked by Bourré (1993) on view for a limited time at Rodrigue Studio in the French Quarter.  The story behind these paintings is one of the most fascinating in George's painting development-

In the summer of 1991, George rented a commercial space in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  Downtown rental property was at a premium and rarely available, and he required City Council approval to convert the former dentist’s office into an art gallery. 

The narrow, deep space seemed at first awkward for Galerie Blue Dog, and it relied primarily on artificial light.  Its only window stretched 82 inches across, facing 6th Avenue, one block behind the main drag of Ocean Avenue.  Attracting attention would be difficult --- especially that of art enthusiasts who might merely glimpse George's gallery from the corner as they walked to the well-known street.

I remember the scene well.  George stretched two canvases the exact width of the window, allowing space for a small display underneath. Facing inside, he painted a moonscape, with two dogs staring across the long gallery from above.  Facing outside, he painted Lacoste Lineup, his first artwork created in California since his student projects at the Art Center College of Design in 1960s Los Angeles.  

(pictured:  Lacoste Lineup, 1991 by George Rodrigue, 36x82 inches, oil on canvas, on view now at Rodrigue Studio, New Orleans)

-be sure and click the photo to enlarge-

With its five Blue Dogs, Oak Trees, Swirling Suns, and Alligator, the painting announced a Cajun’s return to the West Coast, and the fulfillment of a dream he sought since Art School.

(pictured:  George Rodrigue works on Lacoste Lineup on a patio in Carmel, California while his son Jacques and friend Shawn look on, 1991; click photos to enlarge-)

Today Rodrigue Studio Carmel occupies a brightly lit location on busy Dolores Street near the corner of Ocean Avenue.  Rodrigue continued to paint for the gallery and its windows, but he enjoyed more flexibility in the larger space.  By 2000 we owned a home in nearby Carmel Valley and George painted most of his artwork, whether for Carmel or New Orleans, in his studio there, preferring the quiet inspiration of the Santa Lucia Mountains to the hectic pace of his otherwise public life.


In 1986 seventeen hatchlings became the first white alligators ever recorded, when they were found by chance in the Louisiana swamps.  The Louisiana Land and Exploration Company discovered the 9-inch babies in their nest, rescuing them before predators took notice of the glowing animals.

Now full-grown and on view at several habitats across the United States, including the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, the alligators are not albinos, but rather have a rare genetic condition called leucism.  Their piercing blue eyes contribute to their exotic appearance and mystique.

George, like many, was fascinated by this remarkable discovery and viewed the alligators often, eventually painting Spooked by Bourré in 1993 --- his only painting ever of a white alligator.  He called the alligator in his painting Bourré after one of the young white alligators named after the popular Cajun card game and now living in a south Florida zoo.

George painted this mysteriously-colored alligator and its Florida palm tree alongside his own mysteriously-colored Blue Dog and his Louisiana live oak.

See Spooked by Bourré (1993, 24x20 inches) and Lacoste Lineup, two unique paintings within a private collection for twenty-plus years, and now on view for a limited time at Rodrigue Studio and for the first time ever in New Orleans-


-sadly, Spots, one of the original hatchlings who lived at the Audubon Aquarium since 1990, and a brother to Bourré, passed away at the age of 28 in September 2015-

-for a related post and paintings see "Alligator Crossing" linked here-

-join me at the Bayou Teche Museum in George Rodrigue's hometown of New Iberia, Louisiana, on Thursday, January 28th, 2016 for the unveiling of his "Saga of the Acadians"; for tickets and info call  (337) 606-5977-

-please join me on Instagram at wendy.rodrigue ....I think I get it now- 

Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rodrigue Comes Home

Those of you who follow this blog know that over the past six years (goodness…..six years….) and more than 300 essays, I focus on text, with quotes from George, and a careful complement of photographs and paintings.

However, after spending a whirlwind week in Louisiana, I’m ready to post quickly and then get on with things like …..Christmas shopping, walking the historic Santa Fe Plaza, wrapping gifts, decorating the tree, and, well, reflecting, being, living, in my new life in the City Different.

This also includes the arts, such as the inaugural exhibition of Edition One Gallery, featuring an original (and debut) photograph by George Rodrigue (I’ll post on this later), as well as an evening supporting the Santa Fe Artist’s Medical Fund, established many years ago by George’s good friend, artist Armond Lara.

A Louisiana Return, in photographs-

-click any image to enlarge-













So there you have it, a 5-day journey to a former life, a place I never thought I’d go without him.  I now know that I’ll return to Louisiana more often, and other places as well.  To my surprise, I felt welcome, loved, and missed.  And most important…. 

...I felt him...

Thank you, Louisiana.  I've missed you too.  And I'll be seeing you-


-within this post, from the top:  the Bayou Teche Museum in George's hometown of New Iberia; Ridge Elementary School in Duson, a Louisiana A+ School; the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; the historic Heymann House and UL Alumni Center, where I signed The Other Side of the Painting as part of the UL Press Holiday Book Sale; Jolie's Louisiana Bistro in Lafayette, featuring George's Cajun paintings; J. Wallace James Elementary School in Scott, a Louisiana A+ School; the Rodrigue warehouse in Lafayette, including the new print Saints on the Bayou; the new Blue Dog Cafe in Lake Charles; Rodrigue Studio in New Orleans (along with the 1989 Rodrigue Gallery sign I stumbled on in the warehouse); a reception for "Louisiana Graveyards" with original paintings by George Rodrigue spanning 40 years; my sister Heather and I channel childhood holidays with Grandma Helen in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel; a reunion with treasured girlfriends at Commander's Palace.   .....and throughout, George's sons Jacques and André, along with Rodrigue staff and friends, and the inspiring and creative students, teachers, administrators, and educators connected to Ridge Elementary, J. Wallace James Elementary, Louisiana A+ Schools, and the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts-

-for more pictures, please join me on Instagram-

-and finally, because George would insist I share these outtakes ...

Best Blogger Tips