Friday, June 11, 2010

Blue Dog: The Dark Period, 2006-7 (Paintings Following Katrina)

The New Orleans gallery reopened in January of 2006; however, the positive nature of George’s paintings seemed out of place. Our staff worked overtime selling Blue Dog Relief prints, including We Will Rise Again, raising more than $2 million benefiting local causes. Life before the storm, both in and out of the gallery, seemed blurry and miles away. Everything was different. There were no tourists, no one walking in the French Quarter. And no one, including George, our staff, and the public cared about paintings, especially anything dated (and forever described as) ‘before the storm.’ (pictured, Where Are We Going? 2006)

It was almost a year before George returned to his easel, and when he did, the fragmented, dark canvases indicated a strong departure from the controlled, deliberate, hard edge shapes of not only Bodies, but also earlier Blue Dog and Cajun works. These new paintings, also called The Dream Series, lack definition, as though the Blue Dog, just like the rest of George’s world, exploded into chaos and unpredictability.

(pictured, Last Night I Went Looking for Myself; We Are Lost Together; You Would Think We Are the Same)

He painted these works in Carmel, California, where we remained for several months awaiting repairs on our home and George’s studio in New Orleans. George often says that he approaches his canvas without any preconceived ideas. He may know that his painting will involve a Blue Dog, but beyond that he remains open to creative spontaneity, sometimes surprising even himself. (pictured, Ice Me Down; Five of a Kind)

As with God Bless America following September 11th (coming in a post this September), the Blue Dog seemed out of place amidst George’s depression over the widespread misery and devastation back home. His world’s upheaval translated to his canvas, and changes to the Blue Dog reflected changes in his own life. (pictured, Voodoo Nights)
It’s interesting to note the difference between these dark, mysterious canvases and the Hurricane Series of 2002-3. Celebrating the energy of Mother Nature, the abstract and colorful Hurricanes practically mock George’s post-Katrina mood. (pictured, Lilli, 2002, 36 inch diameter, oil on canvas)

For more on the series Hurricanes, visit here.

Although the twenty or so dark paintings of 2006-7 ended up on the gallery walls, one remains in our private collection. The painting Black Magic (2006, 24x24 inches, pictured below) hangs in our home, a reminder of old feelings even now, when we believe we’ve moved on, or when we save watching Treme for another day, because sometimes the painting is enough, and we can't handle the specific memories.

Eventually George’s artwork shifts again. He transitions from his initial fragmented post-Katrina paintings to a more defined Blue Dog, and yet still avoids the hard edge of his earlier works. (pictured, I Am an Artist, 2006, 28x22 inches)

These paintings, among my favorites of the entire Blue Dog series, speak of cautious optimism, as though the Blue Dog pulls itself together on canvas even as George dares to believe that New Orleans will pull through. (pictured, You're the Only One Under the Sun; Summer of '06; You Got Problems?)

However, some days were worse than others, and George’s shifting moods, imperceptible before or since in this steadily down-to-earth, good-natured man, continued within his work. (pictured, It Was a Bad Night; A Down Deep Blue Midnight)
Finally, this period also saw George’s return to the landscape. He called his first post-Katrina show ‘Back to the Bayou’ and filled it with soft lines, yet intensely blue Louisiana scenes. Although quintessentially 'Rodrigue' with the oaks cut off at the top and the light glowing beneath the branches, these paintings differ greatly from his traditional landscapes. (pictured, The Blue Yonder; The Blues Come in the Morning)

New Orleans is post-Katrina today and going forward. Life here is defined by ‘before the storm’ and ‘after.’ Who knows what life would be today had we not sustained this hurricane, and had we not flooded. Those who found the means physically, financially, and emotionally, coped in their own way and moved on if possible. It is through these ethereal and hopeful Blue Dog and Landscape paintings that George Rodrigue made his way home.
Wendy

pictured above: Blue Fall in Louisiana, 2007

For our personal story following Katrina, see the post "For New Orleans"
Best Blogger Tips

13 comments:

  1. This is a fascinating post. I've been a follower of George's work since 1994. I've never seen any of these paintings posted here. "Black Magic" is very erie and I love the landscapes with trees. I love New Orleans and was saddened by Katrina. I haven't been back yet, but I hope to one day see the Quarter again and visit your gallery again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have been a fan for many years but this post is so accurate to those of us who went through the storm. We live in Long Beach, MS and can take myself through these types of moments. These feelings are happening again with the BP spill.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Growing up on the northshore, I have watched the works of George and Blue Dog, but the paintings shown here have blown me away...it's like seeing a bio of Blue Dog living through what we all did and even now making a valient effort to return to "normal". Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have been a fan since the 80's. Own the book and have relatives and friends in NOLA. Went to visit the city in fall 09 - it is truly after the storm. So difficult for recovery. And now, BP. My heart aches. These paintings help.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Blue Dog, a loyal companion, walks the difficult path beside us. I look at these 2006-7 paintings and know I am not alone.

    ReplyDelete
  6. All of these wonderful comments! Thank you for writing in. I'm reminded once again that I take for granted that everyone already knows about these things. I'm so pleased that I could share these special works with you and place them in their significant post-Katrina context. Thank you for reading- Wendy

    ReplyDelete
  7. What an honor to see a painting that's hanging in my living room in this blog entry. When I first saw Voodoo Nights and the others in the Dream series I said to George, "It's like you're looking through smoke. It's still beautiful, but scary." George said, "That's pretty good." : )

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Wendy - I just posted "We Will Rise Again" on my blog Dog Art Today for Flag Day. I also linked to this terrific post on George's work "before" and "after" the storm. I hope his (and yours) cautious optimism is still in tact. Mine is waning today.

    http://dreamdogsart.typepad.com/art/2010/06/blue-dog-for-flag-day.html

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you, Moira. I just returned from a visit to Fort Walton Beach this weekend, where the white sands and gorgeous coast actually made one FORGET about the spill. I'm fairly sure that I'll be talking about this during a post next Wednesday. I had hoped to do so this week, but I'm not ready to face this possible horror story for my beautiful hometown beaches. In the meantime, the eloquence and sadness within your post speaks for many of us. Wendy

    ReplyDelete
  10. Your blog reminded me of how George would tell about his dog sitting at his feet while he worked.
    Sometimes when I am servicing others through my distant healing work (Traiteur) I see the figure of George's dog come and lay down in the front of me. It is as real as you and me.
    Sometimes I feel the dog laying on the side of my bed when I or a family member are not feeling well.
    I am always so grateful and comforted by the presence.
    It calms me to perform my work in the name of others.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My friend Darleen from Lafayette, Louisiana sent me these poignant words::

    Life is before and post Katrina.

    Someone asked me recently after I used the terms, why I let Katrina define my life!

    Let me count the ways.

    I responded, although, I'm sure the answer was totally meaningless, Katrina does not define so much who I am, but rather, it redefines my life, because before the storm, I never imagined that after a storm, this is the way I would be going.

    Somehow, that answer was lost. However, ask anyone who lived through the thing and they get it. And, no matter how merrily life goes on, there remains a certain sadness that will never lift. dL

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have number one of number one. Printers proof gallery series one new Orleans. Any idea what it's worth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anon- For information on appraisals, please contact Bertha Bernard at bertha@georgerodrigue.com or (337)264-1941. I'm not sure that she'll be able to help you with a printer's proof, however, as we never sold them within the gallery and have not followed their values. Thank you for your inquiry-

      Delete