Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What did he look like? …A LAA+ Tour

It was last spring that a young student at The Dufrocq School, a Louisiana A+ School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana asked me the most basic of questions:  “What did he look like?”

Thrown off, I could only think Where’s my phone? (in my purse) followed quickly by Where’s my purse? (on the other side of the room) followed quickly by How do I navigate this sea of children to reach it? (very carefully in my size 10 feet) ---before an on-the-ball teacher deftly circulated George Rodrigue’s photograph from her iPad.


This simple scenario haunts me, because George’s face and voice and mannerisms are imprinted in me so strongly that I near-panicked at the thought that others don’t know, or worse, won’t know the Blue Dog Man.  

This is particularly important for school children because so many of them find inspiration within his artwork.  It’s also important because the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts (GRFA), a non-profit organization established by George Rodrigue in 2009, influences the education of thousands of students through an annual scholarship art contest, art supplies for schools, and arts integration through Louisiana A+ Schools.  Under the leadership of George's son, GRFA Executive Director Jacques Rodrigue, the foundation's Mission Statement reads,

"GRFA advocates the importance of the arts in the development of our youth.  We encourage the use of art within all curriculums and support a variety of art educational programs."

I envisioned a plan.  As has happened repeatedly since George passed away, I find that whatever the needs are for his art, he has already provided the answer.  That was the case with the I VOTED sticker, the Rosemary Beach Sculpture Exhibition, and most recently the Hurricane Harvey relief prints.  What better way to answer What did he look like? than with George's own artistic interpretation!


(Be sure and click the photo for a closer look and to read-)

George’s iconic Rodrigue signature accompanies his iconic portrait in the same way he used it as a design element within his Cajun and Blue Dog prints for years. (See examples here-)

To distribute these special artworks, to be hung prominently within each Louisiana A+ School, I enlisted the help of LAA+ Executive Director Bethany France.  


(Pictured:  With Messiah Montessori Lead Teacher Monique Breaux and LAA+ Schools Executive Director Bethany France, October 13, 2017 at Messiah Montessori School in Houma, Louisiana)

Over the years, George and I visited hundreds of schools together, engaging with students through art demonstrations and discussions.  It took time for me to re-envision these experiences without him. 

(Pictured:  With George Rodrigue at Liza Jackson Preparatory School in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, 2011; preparing for a visit with students last week at South Highlands Elementary School in Shreveport, Louisiana)



In 2013, following our last school visit together, George observed….

"It's the kids who bridge the art.  To be studied by a child is the best way to connect with the future and is more important than hanging on the walls with the great masters.  It took a grammar school teacher and students to help me see this perspective, and it gave both me and Wendy a completely different view and impact, and maybe even a new beginning."

*Read and see more from our visit to North Park Elementary School in Valencia, California, pictured below, here-



For this Fall 2017 statewide tour of eighteen LAA+ Schools, Bethany France helped me formulate a plan, complete with an unveiling of George’s portrait, along with classroom visits with as many children as possible. 


Most special, I share original Rodrigue paintings from our home ---a refreshing alternative to reproductions and power points--- and in many cases the first original Rodrigue artwork the students have ever seen.



(Pictured above:  With Dr. Jules Boquet at Messiah Montessori School in Houma, Louisiana – a LAA+ School)

"The donation of these beautiful prints supports the growth of arts-integrated learning throughout Louisiana,” explains Bethany France.  “I believe that Mr. George Rodrigue would be very proud of the commitment to innovative learning and the importance of implementing the arts into every aspect of the classroom as demonstrated in Louisiana A+ Schools."  



(Pictured:  Visiting Grace Episcopal School in Monroe, Louisiana --- a LAA+ School)

Touring Louisiana A+ Schools is a natural for me to further honor George.  He believed, as do I, in arts integration in all aspects of life ---especially education--- which is why the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts has supported LAA+ Schools from its inception.  




(Pictured:  With Principal Mary Harris at South Highlands Elementary Magnet School in Shreveport, Louisiana – a LAA+ School)

I’m now two weeks into this ten-week tour and am witness to exciting and creative academic lessons shaped by the visual and performing arts.  Students, teachers, and administrators are both inspired and inspiring, in an environment where school participation is motivated by a real passion and joy for teaching and learning!


Admittedly, I began this tour feeling bittersweet. However, that has shifted to elation, as I see students and teachers come to know George in a personal, meaningful, and memorable way.  I'm truly enjoying this tour and am grateful to the schools for allowing me to share with them. It is my life's work, since 1991, to educate others ---through exhibitions, lectures, school visits, and writing--- about the life and art of George Rodrigue.  

Furthermore, it is in large part because of George's efforts that the arts are a daily and integral part of the educational experience at the Louisiana A+ Schools; and it is imperative that every student recognizes not only his art and name, but also his kind and beautiful face.


Gotta run..... Can't be late for school!
Wendy

-pictured above:  Third grade students at South Highlands in Shreveport, following their stellar, heartfelt performance of On the Shoulders of Giants, a musical by John Jacobson and Mac Huff; the entrance to Grace Episcopal School in Monroe.  Both are LAA+ Schools-

-Louisiana A+ Schools is now accepting applications for the 2018-19 school year; for information on this fall tour schedule or questions about LAA+, contact Bethany France at Bethany@aplusla.org; also visit www.aplusla.org

-for information on the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, visit www.rodriguefoundation.org 

-photographs at Louisiana A+ Schools by Douglas Magnus-

-read a related article from Houma Today here-




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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Remembering George Rodrigue

It’s three years ago today, December 14, 2013, that we lost George Rodrigue.  I embrace, as I do every day, his beautiful light, shining now as bright as ever, through the legacy of art and philanthropy left to us by this beloved husband, father, and friend.

George is an example to others through his kindness and generosity, and through his unrelenting pursuit of his dreams.  He left a lasting gift to the world through his tangible expressions in paint, print, sculpture, and words of his luminous and unprecedented ideas.

"Great works of art take on a life of their own, long after the artist is gone." -George Rodrigue

-a photograph taken by Wendy, December 2012, and filtered blue by George ----titled within his files, “Blue Christmas”-

-sharing George's paintings and stories at the New Orleans Museum of Art, December 2016-


With blessings to you and yours during the holidays and always.  

And, direct from George, as he made me promise to write within every copy of The Other Side of the Painting:

"Enjoy Life!"

Wendy


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Friday, December 9, 2016

Rodrigue Jewelry

George first created jewelry in the 1970s, hand-forming designs in clay from his images of Oak Trees and Jolie Blonde, which he reinterpreted as solid gold pendants.  Later he made for himself one-of-a-kind Mardi Gras coins featuring elements from his paintings, also in gold, and embellished with precious stones.

In the 1980s George met Douglas Magnus, a renowned Silversmith in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The two formed a lasting friendship that included their mutual respect as artisans.  Over the years they worked together on numerous projects, including a line of “Blue Dog Jewelry,” released in a small quantity in the early 2000s.  In addition, Magnus created many one-of-a-kind Rodrigue pieces, designed by George as gifts for me.


-click photos throughout to enlarge-

In 2016 I approached Douglas Magnus to reintroduce the jewelry line using George's original designs.  Unavailable for more than a decade, these special pieces are updated by Magnus, based on his experiences in working for many years with his good friend. 

“Working with George on these designs and concepts was like a hand in the glove.  George knew what he wanted, and I was able to create that vision.  I think both of us were always very pleased with the outcome.  I feel that the updated collection achieves a higher standard of completion and quality, with attention to detail, in the spirit of George and his art.”


(pictured:  Cowboy Blue Dog 2013, an original photo-collage by George Rodrigue, featuring Douglas Magnus and his turquoise mines near Santa Fe, New Mexico; learn more here-)

Unlike the earlier pins and pendants, the reworked designs include an emphasis on George's distinctive signature as an artistic element within each piece.  



These works of art are hand-crafted with the highest quality using sterling silver and, in some cases, 14k gold auras, per George's original instructions.  The backside of each piece is as beautiful as the front, again with an emphasis on “Rodrigue."




In addition, this new collection, available only through Rodrigue Studio, includes several items that George designed in collaboration with Magnus, exclusively for me, including a sterling silver Blue Dog Series bracelet from 2013.  




In all cases, the jewelry is handcrafted, piece-by-piece, by Magnus Studios in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where George Rodrigue worked with Douglas Magnus for nearly thirty years.  

 

I considered for quite sometime whether or not to reintroduce the jewelry.  George and I visited Santa Fe many times, not only because we love the area and its people, but also because George enjoyed a unique camaraderie and artistic-exchange among his friends here.

(pictured:  Artists Douglas Magnus, Armond Lara, and George Rodrigue photographed in Santa Fe, New Mexico by Dana Waldon, 2008)


Today, because I live between Santa Fe and New Orleans, I have the opportunity to watch Douglas at work and channel those memories.  Many afternoons I visit his shop as he works on "Rodrigue," and as he honors, with meticulous care and craftsmanship, a great American artist.






Sharing the jewelry again feels right.  As I've said many times, I am not the artist, and yet this process feels like working with George and moving forward with his designs....... in a way that he would want.  Furthermore, within the galleries, it's particularly poignant to have something 'new' from George.  


About Douglas Magnus:

Douglas Magnus (b. 1946) moved to Santa Fe in the late 1960s, following his childhood in Los Angeles, California and Silverton, Colorado, and a formative two years with the U.S. Army in El Paso. 

A photographer and videographer, Magnus expanded his oeuvre while in New Mexico to include painting, sculpture, and jewelry, an art form he honed while apprenticing with local Indians in Gallup, New Mexico. Soon after he acquired the famed Cerrillos Turquoise Mines, the same land originally mined by Native Americans some 1000 years ago, and later by Tiffany & Company in the early 1900s.

Today Magnus lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico, conceiving original designs and finished products from turquoise, silver, gold, and other materials. He is also a prolific painter, embracing numerous subjects such as interiors and figurative works, while partial to plein air paintings created on site at his mines.

Above all, Magnus embraces quality materials and meticulous craftsmanship, remaining true to his unique, evolving vision and his commitment to beautiful, handcrafted works of art.  



Wendy

-pictured above:  Douglas Magnus, Wendy Rodrigue, André Rodrigue at the Tiffany Mine in Cerrillos, New Mexico, 2015.

-Rodrigue Jewelry is handcrafted and very limited; at this time, prices range between $475 and $4750;  for availability, contact Rodrigue Studio at this link- https://georgerodrigue.com/contact/

-for more by Douglas Magnus visit www.douglasmagnus.com

-jewelry photography by Studio Seven Productions, Albuquerque, New Mexico-

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Begneaud Collection

Since losing George in 2013, we (myself, his sons, and our staff), have made educating the public about his life and work a priority. In the galleries, we've focused on exhibitions that span his 45-year career, including the current installations, Rodrigue:  Blue Dog for President in New Orleans and  Rodrigue in Carmel:  Galerie Blue Dog Celebrates 25 Years in Carmel, California.

These unique exhibitions borrow original works from Rodrigue's archives, as well as from private collectors.  Rodrigue Studio's Curator of Exhibitions, Dana Holland-Beickert of Memphis, Tennessee, expertly chooses and installs the artwork based on her extensive museum background, including her work on the George Rodrigue Retrospectives at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis (2007) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (2008).  

Both shows broke records at those museums for exhibitions by a contemporary or living artist, in large part due to Holland-Beickert's curatorial skills, including her impressive and thorough research on Rodrigue and her proficient analysis of his art.


Pictured:  The New Orleans Museum of Art, 2008; click photo to enlarge-

Dana and I have worked together on numerous Rodrigue projects over the past decade, within museums and Rodrigue Studios.  This includes our collaboration on wall texts, extended labels, and other related materials.  Lately, this has been so extensive as to take my time from my usual blog essays.  So, lest I leave you hanging any longer, please enjoy below an excerpt from our newest exhibition, opening this week in Lafayette, featuring twenty-five exceptional and rarely-seen paintings by George Rodrigue.

Throughout, I've sprinkled painting selections from the exhibition and linked to related essays (as indicated by any highlighted words or phrases).

RODRIGUE:  THE BEGNEAUD COLLECTION

George Rodrigue (1944-2013) was born and raised in New Iberia, Louisiana, and lived in Lafayette for thirty-five years. His family descended from the original Cajun settlers after four Rodrigue brothers walked from Nova Scotia to southwest Louisiana during Le Grand Dérangement of 1755.

Following his art studies at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Rodrigue attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, where he recognized from afar the unique and fading Cajun culture. Upon his return to Acadiana in 1967, he committed himself to preserving his beloved heritage, landscape, and mythology on his canvas. 

Although his mother insisted on describing their family as “pure French,” Rodrigue embraced proudly, from the beginning, the description “Cajun Artist.”  


Pictured:  Cajuns Love Boudin, 1980 by George Rodrigue, 40x30 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of Donald Begneaud.

Now residing in Lafayette, Rodrigue was determined to make a living as an artist. However, he never imagined that selling his art would be his responsibility. At that time there were no galleries in Lafayette, and with the exception of the Reilly Gallery in New Orleans, there was not a gallery anywhere that would display his old-world, Renaissance-style Louisiana landscapes — repetitive interpretations of dark oaks and small skies. 

After months of seeking representation, Rodrigue accepted that he was on his own. He placed a small advertisement announcing “Bayou Country Paintings” in the back of Southern Living Magazine and Acadiana Profile, using his Lafayette home phone number and address--- located on Duclos Street.


Pictured:  John Courrege's Pirogue, 1973 by George Rodrigue, 36x42 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of Kenny Begneaud;  Learn more about this painting here-

Rodrigue’s paintings and efforts attracted the attention of his childhood friend Dickie Hebert, also from New Iberia. Dickie and George reconnected in 1970 when Dickie moved back to Lafayette from Texas to work as a pharmacist. By this time, Rodrigue had opened a small gallery on Pinhook Road, where he painted daily and felt fortunate to receive one or two visitors per week. 

Early on, Dickie Hebert purchased a small landscape for $150.00. Excited about his acquisition, he showed the painting to his new employer, Roland Begneaud of Begneaud's Pharmacy.  Roland immediately recognized the talent and potential in this unknown painter, and he requested an introduction, which Dickie arranged.


Pictured:  Begneaud's Pharmacy (Portrait of Arista J. Begneaud, Roland's father), 1983 by George Rodrigue, 30x40 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of David Begneaud.

It was the beginning of a friendship, a respect between artist and collector, and ultimately an extraordinary private collection of Rodrigue paintings.

Roland Begneaud was an intelligent and shrewd businessman who saw the potential in investing in George’s work. The two friends became fast business associates, working out purchase agreements, oftentimes hand-written on the backs of the pharmacy’s prescription pads, to help Rodrigue finance the improvements on his single-story Victorian-style home on Jefferson Street. Rodrigue famously (and expensively) raised the house, building an additional floor underneath as his gallery.


Pictured:  Prescription pad, Begneaud's Pharmacy, 1973.

Ultimately, Roland Begneaud amassed one of the best collections of Rodrigue’s early Cajun paintings, particularly after he added people and scenes to his landscapes.


Pictured:  Boudreaux in a Barrel, 1972 by George Rodrigue, 36x24 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of Louise Begneaud Ganucheau. Learn more about this painting here-

Based on 1920s-1930s area photographs from his mother’s album, these paintings reflect Rodrigue’s interpretation, what he called “a naïve surrealism,” of a fading era. He described his paintings as timeless ….Do they depict 1820 or 1920? And he lamented that few local people appreciated the way he portrayed them, “as primitive, living beneath the trees.” 


Pictured:  Felix and Annabelle, 1974 by George Rodrigue, 26x38 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of Louise Begneaud Ganucheau.

With the exception of Roland Begneaud and a handful of other friends, the majority of Rodrigue’s collectors, whether Cajun or Blue Dog canvases, lived outside of Louisiana.  And throughout his life, Rodrigue remained grateful to Roland Begneaud for appreciating and nurturing his vision. 


Pictured:  Daughters of Andre Chastant, 1971 by George Rodrigue, 28x36 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of David Begneaud.  Learn more about this painting here-

In 1976, both Rodrigue and Begneaud celebrated their success when the book The Cajuns of George Rodrigue (Oxmoor House), featuring eleven works from the Begneaud Collection, was chosen by The National Endowment for the Arts and Rosalynn Carter as an Official White House Gift of State during the Carter administration.


Pictured:  Doc Moses, Cajun Traiteur, 1974 by George Rodrigue, 48x36 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of Donald Begneaud.  Learn more about this painting here

Today the more than thirty Rodrigue canvases acquired by Roland Begneaud are still treasured by his five children, Doug, Kenny, Louise, Donald and David, and their children. The Rodrigue family honors George Rodrigue and Roland Begneaud in bringing together, with gratitude to the Begneaud Family of Lafayette, Louisiana, an unprecedented exhibition of these outstanding paintings by one of America’s most important artists.


Pictured:  Cajun Bride of Oak Alley, 1974 by George Rodrigue, 24x32 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of Douglas Begneaud. Learn more about this painting here

Please join me at Rodrigue Studio, Lafayette, for the opening reception for this special collection of early Rodrigue Cajun paintings, as we celebrate George Rodrigue and the Begneaud Family.  Thursday, October 27, 2016; 5-7 p.m. Details linked here.

Hope to see you-
Wendy

-In addition, please join me this Friday, October 28th, 2016 at the Alexandria Museum of Art, when I'll be reading from The Other Side of the Painting (UL Press) and sharing original Rodrigue paintings from mine and George's private collection.  2:00 p.m. FREE. Details linked here-

-And this Saturday, October 29th, 2016 join me in Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Book Festival.  I'm on a panel with Dr. Chris Cenac for his impressive new tome, Hard Scrabble to Hallelujah: Legacies of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, which features beautiful reproductions of a dozen Rodrigue paintings. 
     Afterwards, I'll read from The Other Side of the Painting and share original George Rodrigue paintings from our collection.  2:00 p.m. FREE. Details linked here



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