Monday, September 21, 2009

Blue Dog in Three Dimensions

Completed July 2012..... Three Heads are Better Than One (height:  five feet; constructed of chrome, aluminum and steel; finished with acrylic and automotive paint), on view at the Rodrigue Gallery, New Orleans; click photo to enlarge-



It was probably ten years ago that George Rodrigue started work in earnest on the concept of a Blue Dog sculpture. He dabbled as early as 1992, but those pieces were flat cut-outs made of wood, usually mahogany, about two inches thick, and painted as if they were on canvas. Occasionally he surrounded these pieces with neon or added other elements to the shape, such as a moon or hot dog. He also tried a few on poles, without a front and back, but rather with two fronts -- one side blue and the other side red.


From the beginning there was a real challenge in creating the dog as a sculpture, because for George the Blue Dog only exists in two dimensions. It’s not like a dog at all. It doesn’t run or bark or chase its tail. It doesn’t have a backside. It only exists in a specific pose and on a flat plain within a Rodrigue painting.

These early sculptures were fun; however, other than their wooden structure, they were no different than had he cut the image from a painting with scissors, attaching it to the wall sans background.  The idea of a three-dimensional sculpture haunted George, but an effective design eluded him. In addition to wood, he experimented with bronze and plaster, but still the results were cut-out shapes that hung like canvases.

Rodrigue was in search of a sculpture that would stand on its own while retaining the strong, well-defined Blue Dog shape.

By the late 1990s, the idea of a Blue Dog sculpture became almost a daily part of George’s creative process. He played with paper and cardboard, bending and pasting and cropping, with occasional add-ons such as toothpicks and mini-easels, in hopes of creating a model that was more than just a shape cut from a painting.


And then one night in 2003, as we sat talking at a restaurant bar while waiting for our table, George played absentmindedly with the cocktail napkins.  He stopped suddenly, looked up with a huge grin, and said,
“I’ve got it!”


Got what?
“The sculpture. I know how I’m gonna do it.”
And that was how three cocktail napkins, each balanced on one edge and held together in concave arches between our pinching fingers, became the design for the Blue Dog Sculpture. Each side would be a dog-front, with the feet matching up at the bottom.

George went on to explain over dinner that the three-sided piece will be two hundred and fifty feet tall, hold a Louisiana Welcome Center and Historical Museum at its base, and sit on a grassy area at the foot of the Luling Bridge, just outside of New Orleans. 

“I’ll build it like a rig!”

The following week he visited Begneaud’s Manufacturing in Lafayette, Louisiana and began work on a four-foot prototype constructed of chrome, aluminum, and steel. There were many challenges during this trial run --- most importantly, how to bend the metal, avoid problems with wind (for the big one, that is), theft (for the small one, that is), and birds (it’s an attractive perch at any size) and how best to apply the color. In the end he mounted the piece on a heavy stand and pole, elevating it three feet off the ground, completing the job at an automotive paint shop where he sealed it like a car.

Within a month of his ‘eureka’ with the cocktail napkins, George finished a four-foot version and saw endless possibilities for integrating the piece as public art.


Within six months he created an eight-foot version, also red, yellow, and blue, now installed at the Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art (given by George in memory of my mother, Mignon Wolfe, who loved to walk there).

Following the unavoidable and lengthy disruption of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (and the way it made us all forget anything we’d been working on ‘before the storm’), he built another eight-foot piece (2007) which he covered in automotive flip-flop paint, so that the sculpture changes color as a person moves around it and the daylight shifts (currently on view at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel on Canal Street.)


Today he works on his most exciting version yet: a 28-foot sculpture to be installed January 2010 on Veterans Boulevard in Metairie, Louisiana (a suburb of New Orleans). This large scale prompted new challenges, including working with and curving enormous sheets of metal, transporting the work from the fabrication shop more than one hundred miles, arranging landscaping, security, lighting, and parking, planning for hurricane force winds, and most importantly, working with area legislators and citizens to ensure a sculpture and installation that adds in a positive way to their community.

Nearly a year in the making, this impressive piece is almost finished. The landscaping is underway, and the pole will be installed this Wednesday. Last week it received its automotive flat colors of red, blue, and yellow, and in early October Rodrigue will paint the details, as the sculpture, suspended and lying on its side, turns on the giant rotisserie he designed for this purpose.


In usual George Rodrigue form, these current projects are just the beginning. In the past month, he designed a table for the new gallery space (base plans pictured below), and he’s playing with a three-dimensional wall piece by dissecting a giant sculpture.


And what of the two hundred and fifty foot gateway Blue Dog?  Oh he’s still talking about it. Nothing would surprise me.

Wendy

*For more on George Rodrigue's sculptures, including his early works in bronze, visit the post Bronzes-


*For more art and discussion, please join me on facebook-

*Updated photos, posted Jan 18, 2010:



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11 comments:

  1. This is GREAT!!! You have so many blue dog lovers and we all can't get enough. I lived in Lafayette and became a huge fan (and the restaurant was great too). Then moved back to Mississippi but took my love of blue dog here. So many more people need to learn about blue dog... and fall in love with it!!!

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  2. Wendy, thanks for making the time to share your thoughts and observations this way. I'm very much enjoying them!

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  3. This is a great blog, Wendy. Keep posting!! I bought the Blue dog with the the red eyes...ref: New Orleans.."We will rise again".

    Mary E.

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  4. I fell in love with the Blue Dog, (actually the story behind him), on my first visit to NO, over 10 yrs ago. I knew then that I had to have one of my own. Well, I do, and I gaze at him often, just as I did the first time I saw him. The statue will be a wonderful addition to the ambiance that makes NO what she is.

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  5. Mom and I are admiring the new works; she is here with me recuperating from a badly sprained ankle. We still remember going to see the exhibit here in Houston right before the storm. I gave my son August Henry Rodrigue Cook the two postcards I received of the picture of the Blue Dogs wearing the chef hats; August is in culinary school about to graduate from high school. I told him one picture for his room, the other to hang in whatever restaurant he works in! Hello Wendy and George! Nancy Rodrigue Cook and Yvonne (Mrs. Henry) Rodrigue

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  6. Love it what a great JOB Steven FoxX Artist P.A.

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  7. It has been said "Life is a work of art and we are the Artist" By George you have given life to every canvas you touch and hearts as well. Since the 80's I have always Luv the Blue Dog. My first time every was when shopping at Neiman Marcus. Oh how I wanted that Blue Dog, than the only way I could afford the puppy was on a gift card with Blue Dog which I still own today. I had taken my son to the Dallas vs Saints with the Saints not winning. I said from the very beginning the Saints will be in the Super Bowl. I just received my first Silkscreen "We Are Marching Again". I want to say I've been smitten by your Blue Dog ;)~
    by: Sandra Lynn

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  8. There will never be too many "Blue Dogs":)
    Thanks! Debbie from Ponchatoula, LA

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  9. HI
    I recently saw the "wonderful" 3 dimential Blue Dog on Vets Hwy while Taking our yearly visit to the NO area after Katrina. We lived there more than 50 years and miss it tremendously! Anyway...I LOVE IT! IT IS REALLY WONDERFUL! (BLUE DOG THAT IS!)
    Shirley L.

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  10. I was at the Sheraton last month, and everywhere I looked was George's work--even a Blue Dog cow, even a view across the street. I thought, "Can Wendy possibly know this?" There was too much labor in all that art for it to have come from one man. Now I read this and see not one dab of paint came from anyone else, not one installation was dictated by any venue. Thanks, Wendy, for the paper-napkin story that tells it all.

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    Replies
    1. Patty - I love this comment so much that I shared it on my public facebook page. Thank you :)

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