Monday, May 23, 2011

Recalling Le Grand Dérangement…from Quebec

As my sister Heather and I travel within Quebec this week, I note a surprise within every hair-raising, lightening speed turn of our host’s, a former racecar driver’s, Hummer.  We flew (by plane) Thursday into Montreal and flew (by car) to the small village of Nominingue, where we remained two nights on a lake (any lake, really, considering the proliferation), followed by two days in Quebec City, gawking like the tourists we are over the things we did not expect.

“The mountains!  The snow!  The bread!  The people!  The tulips!  The food!  The architecture!  The Acadian houses!  The copper roofs!  The opera-singing street musicians!  The Art Nouveau!  The bronze statues!  An Urusuline convent! White horse beer!  The stairs!  The wall!  A general named Wolfe!”

Well, you get the idea.

(pictured, my sister Heather Wolfe Parker; is it possible that our ancestor lead the British invasion against George Rodrigue’s ancestors?)

Most important, we wondered why on earth, especially as Louisianians, we or anyone else bothers traveling to Europe.

“It’s almost like a boucherie.  They’re ready to party!” 

...observed our traveling companion Cindy Doré Brunet, as we studied a 1926 painting by Gaston Hoffman (French, b. 1883) within the café of the Musee National Des Beaux-Arts du Quebec (tap photo to enlarge).

(pictured, Cindy Doré Brunet enjoys an impressive Canadian meal of rabbit and duck, prepared five ways)

Regrettably, I have no time to write about any of it today, as we spend our last hours in this area touring a castle, hiking a waterfall, and shopping for souvenirs (specifically, hand-made felt fingerless gloves and artist-on-the-fence type miniature paintings).  Montreal tonight and a major post this weekend.

In the meantime, I leave you with a re-post of the images and story behind George Rodrigue’s Saga of the Acadians, a series haunting me as I roam these stone streets and reflect over a harbor that saw, in 1759, thirty thousand British troops enter for the last time. The series is on view at the Alexandria Museum of Art until July 2, 2011, followed by Baton Rouge and Shreveport (schedule here).

I also remind you to “Know Louisiana,” a tribute to our state and the Cajun paintings of George Rodrigue in my latest post for Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans, linked here.

Au Revoir, 


The Saga of the Acadians (first posted March, 2010)

Between 1985 and 1989, George Rodrigue painted the Saga of the Acadians, a series of fifteen paintings chronicling the Acadian journey from France to Nova Scotia in the 17th century, from Nova Scotia to Louisiana during the Grand Dérangement of 1755, and finally the first official return visit from Southwest Louisiana to Grand Pré in the 1930s.

I’ve written about this series so often over the years that I’m struggling to find something fresh for a blog. And yet maybe there’s no reason to approach the works in a new way. These are George’s graphic interpretation of the story of his ancestors, and perhaps the less analyzation the better.

However, just for fun, before laying out each painting’s history I provide here a few interesting tidbits:

In 1984, the year before he began the Saga, George painted his first Blue Dog. Over the next five years he painted not only the loup-garou, but also a number of important Cajun works and portraits, including paintings of Hank Williams and President Ronald Reagan, as well as the Saga of the Acadians. Many people don’t realize that there was a long crossover period of both Blue Dog and Cajun works.

George narrowed the Acadian story down to fifteen paintings. He’s said many times that had he wanted to, the expansive saga could have been two hundred paintings.

These works are painted in oil, completed just prior to George’s struggle with hepatitis, resulting in his switch to acrylic paint. He’s often mentioned the marathon pace of painting both this series and the forty canvases for the book Bayou as having brought on his illness.

The paintings typify George Rodrigue's style, established years before with works such as the Aioli Dinner. The figures appear to be cut out and pasted onto the landscape, just as the Cajuns were cut out of Canada and pasted onto South Louisiana, where they started life again, making a home for themselves in the swamps and prairies. The oak trees are cut off at the top so that light shines from underneath, representing the small sky of Louisiana (as opposed to the big sky of neighboring Texas), as well as a distant hope for these transplanted people. Rather than shadowed beneath the trees, the people shine in white, glowing with their culture.

The Saga of the Acadians was originally in the collection of the Landry and Defez Families in Henderson, Louisiana. They donated the works to the Acadian Village Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana, where for ten years the museum housed a George Rodrigue annex, focusing on the Saga, with supplemental paintings loaned by the artist.

Eventually the Anne and Wendell Gauthier Family of New Orleans (by way of Southwest Louisiana) acquired the collection. Through their generosity the paintings tour museums throughout the state of Louisiana, focusing on small venues in Cajun communities. For a list of 2011 tour dates and locations, visit here.

The Saga of the Acadians by George Rodrigue, 1985-1989

All paintings are oil on canvas, 36x24 inches
(Descriptions researched and written with the help of Dana Holland-Beickert for the New Orleans Museum of Art)

The Sailing of the Jonah depicts the beginning of a journey in 1604 from Normandy, France, to what is now Nova Scotia. This journey launched the beginning of an ethnic group destined to fascinate the world.

Pilgrims. Frenchmen were the first settlers of the North American continent. Arriving just north of Plymouth Rock in 1604, they lived a family-oriented lifestyle in the harsh Nova Scotia wilderness.

The First Planting. These imaginative settlers (now Acadians) developed fertile farmland in their marsh-like territory. So successful were their efforts, many historians feel the Acadians were deported in order to make room for British settlers who coveted these productive grounds.

The Fight for an Empire. French soldiers board a ship just ahead of advancing British troops. Caught between two military giants, the Acadian settlers were soon to have their tranquil lifestyle destroyed forever.

The Church at Grand Pré was the first Catholic Church built in Nova Scotia. The British troops used it as a prison for the soon-to-be-exiled Acadians.

Leave Our Homes? Hell No! The British used harsh tactics to subdue these stubborn settlers. Permanent guards were posted at each home, forcing its inhabitants to live for an extended period in the unsheltered wilderness.

With No Country to Call Home, the Pilgrims originally settled in Nova Scotia to satisfy the expansion needs of Motherland France. Following British victory, they were required to forsake the Catholic religion and swear allegiance to the British king. Refusing on both issues, they were deported to many lands, and often refused entry. Even in France, they were considered “no longer French.”

Final Insult. Deported Acadians were forced to endure the harsh winter in open vessels in the North Atlantic. This controversial painting shows a soldier of the Crown offering a diseased blanket as cover for a child.

A Final Look at Acadie. Forcibly driven from their homes and separated from those they loved, the stage was set in 1755 for the odyssey to begin and for Longfellow to immortalize this epic journey.

The First Cajuns. After many years without a homeland, these steadfast Acadians reached their long sought “Land of the Oaks” and became Cajuns.

The Last Novena for GabrielEvangeline, symbol of forced separation of families, friends and those in love, offers one final prayer for her Gabriel.

Macque Choux. Native Indians assisted the Cajuns in understanding the indigenous ingredients available to them for cooking. (Macque Choux is a corn dish of South Louisiana)

He-bert, Yes – A Bear, No. In 1912 Louisiana Governor Hall issued a special edict that French could no longer be spoken in school. (See the post, Jimmy Domengeaux, George Rodrigue, and a Few Other Louisiana Characters)

Evangeline – A Silent Classic. The oak is revisited by Hollywood in 1929 in its rendition of Longfellow’s Evangeline, starring Dolores del Rio. (As a side note, I found this movie and surprised George with it not long after we were married. Later that evening George, his two boys, his mother, our neighbors and I could all be found in the den, snoozing in front of the quiet film. It knocked out every one of us.)

Return to Acadie. Dudley LeBlanc became the first Cajun on record to revisit his roots: the historic Church of Grand Pré in Nova Scotia. At the time, LeBlanc’s Hadacol was second in America for advertising expenses behind Coca-Cola.

I leave you with a photograph (1960s) of former Louisiana State Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc with his 'Evangelines' at the White House (note President John F. Kennedy in the bottom photo), on their way to the Church at Grand Pré in Nova Scotia.

For more on Rodrigue’s Saga of the Acadians, see the following stories: Early Oak TreesThe Aioli DinnerEvangelineJimmy Domengeaux


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Monday, May 16, 2011

Pink Dog

Over the years George Rodrigue designed a number of labels for both wine and beer.  Recently he created A Bouquet of Rosé for John Schwartz and winemaker Heidi Barrett.  Their wine, Prêt à Boire, is a small production, French style rosé out of Napa Valley with a name meaning “ready to drink.”

George tempts us with his label art, and Heidi Barrett tempts us with her reputation and description:

The wine exhibits “flavors of strawberry, watermelon, sage and plum, with aromas of glazed pears, rose petals, wet stone minerality and floral fragrances with a creamy finish.”

I asked George about his painting:

The color pink is just before blue on the color wheel. The dog is preparing to change, to ripen.  I tried to show that it’s the beginning of things.  The wine is ready to drink, the flowers are blooming, and the dog is ready to turn blue.”

Yet this is not George’s first pink dog.  In fact, the traditionally feminine color appears often in his paintings, contradicting George’s otherwise overt masculinity.  His softer side dominates these canvases both in color and subject matter.  This big-engine-loving, cowboy boot-wearing knife collector may write it off to the ‘color wheel,’ but I know better. (pictured, My New Friend Brings Me Sunshine, 2010)

Just this past week his sensitivity surprised even me when he welled with tears as the Boy Scouts of America presented him with the Distinguished Eagle Award.  (story here)

George may not linger without a fuss in a garden, but he compliments my gardenia perfume and surprises me with flowers --- most often, tulips, as pictured at the bottom of this post.

Even in the post-Katrina "Dream Series" paintings, his darkest series in years, the color pink illustrates the fragmented work as George, like so many others, seeks a brighter mood and, hesitatingly, normalcy. (pictured, Hearts in Love, 2006)

Returning to landscape painting in recent years, George’s color palette often (although not entirely) rejects his dark, moody landscapes of the early 1970s in favor of bright colors and a more obvious abstraction. (pictured, acrylic landscape, 2009)

This year the giant Pink-a-Boo (below, 2007, 60x40 inches) tours the state of Louisiana with a collection of Rodrigue paintings from the New Orleans Museum of Art, an exhibition organized by Director Emeritus John Bullard in celebration of the museum's centennial.  Already on view in Lake Charles and Monroe, the show moves next to Baton Rouge and Shreveport. (tour details here)

“It’s a pink Blue Dog!” I heard one child exclaim.

Most recently, George created Crazy Train, a remastered digital print (edition 10), combining his love of color, design and transportation.

Finally, I leave you with ripe Ponchatoula strawberries, a fresh-cut spring bouquet, and a reminder to George that there is more than one artist in the family.

Fortunately, he took the news well.


For related posts see “Green Dog” and “Label Art for Wine and Beer

Thoughts on our New Orleans neighborhood, the Faubourg Marigny, in my latest post for Gambit’s "Blog of New Orleans," linked here

This week on Twitter, I explore Quebec and Montreal with my sister Heather.  Hope you'll join us!

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Artist's Mother: Marie Courrege Rodrigue

“Aren’t you happy?” my uncle asked Marie Rodrigue on the night of my engagement to her son.  “You’re going to have a daughter-n-law!”

“I had one,” she replied, her face deadpan.  “It didn’t work out.”

When she died in 2008 at age one hundred and three, George Rodrigue’s mother still wanted to “go home” to New Iberia.  She wanted her car back, to remove her grandsons’ hats and cut their hair, to lengthen my skirts and overcook my Thanksgiving turkey, to visit long-dead friends and family, and, most important, to see her son get a real job, “with the telephone company,” she said, as she worried about his pension:

“When will you realize that nobody’s gonna buy those pictures?” 

She was tough, ‘solid,’ as George used to say, with legs like tree stumps (her description, not mine, although…)… 

…and the closest she ever came to happiness was in worrying about it.  At age ninety-two she called us in Carmel, as it stormed at our house in Lafayette, Louisiana, concerned about the rising water in the front yard.  We heard the phone drop and an ‘Umph,’ amidst the thunder and rain, as she slipped on the front porch, her solid body rolling into the flower bed unharmed.

“Where are the sandbags?!” she hollered, recovering the phone as she lay trapped beneath an azalea bush.

(George Rodrigue painted his mother's 1924 graduating class from Mount Carmel Academy in 1972; Marie sits bottom row, third from the right)

Like most of her generation, the Depression hovered over Marie Rodrigue’s decisions, threatening to return at any moment.  However, she lived with another experience just as powerful.

It was a Sunday morning in 1927, and like all of New Iberia, twenty-two year old Marie Courrege knew that the water was coming.  The U.S. Corp of Engineers, hoping to spare the big city, blew up the levy at the Mississippi River near Morganza, north of New Orleans, and in Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, a few days before.

Marie parked her Model T Ford at the edge of the floodplain, just east of New Iberia, where the river ran thousands of years before, and where the land descends toward St. Martinville.  She heard the water before she saw it, and for the rest of her life she recounted the story, her hands moving with the memory.

“The water was rollin’,” she said, her arms twirling and her eyes wide. “I jumped in the car and drove to the church, the river rising on the wheels of daddy’s car.  ‘It’s coming!’ I screamed in the middle of the sermon, and the people ran from the church and left town.”

Marie Rodrigue, a devout Catholic, proud to be ‘French’ as opposed to ‘Cajun,’ was an odd and some would say charming mixture of funny and mean.  “She has no filter,” George used to say in response to her biting comments.  If it entered her head, it came out of her mouth, and like most families, maybe all families, it was those closest to her that felt the sting.

“George, you’re full of sh*t,” she said, on more than one occasion.

And eventually I was too.  We learned to lie and tell her what she wanted to hear, that the new clothes were actually the dry cleaning, that I scraped the insides of the pumpkins to make the pies, that we sold paintings on our vacations, that her savings paid for her living expenses, that our dinner guests left twenty dollars at the door and, that if she would wear a new suit instead of her shroud to our wedding, I would,

“I swear, on the day you die, let the sleeves out again so that someone else can wear it.”

George, an only child, tried to please her, and perhaps that is the best that can be said of their relationship.  He loved her deeply and lied daily to his mother, because he wanted her happiness.  I know for a fact that she bragged about George to others, yet she existed on another plane from her son, unable to acknowledge his accomplishments where it mattered most, to his face.  Fortunately, her wit softened the blow.

“She didn’t think she was funny,’ says George, “but she had a dry, cynical humor that cut to the chase real fast.”

Immune to criticism from a young age, George is confident in his artwork and in life’s decisions.  In the years I’ve known him, he coveted only his mother’s approval.  Yet, in one of life’s ironies, the harder he tried, the less likely her praise.  The saving grace, both at that time and now, as we reminisce about Marie, is the leftfield humor in her retorts.

“Well, did he have anything good to say?” she asked, after we gave her a rosary and a signed proclamation from the Pope.

She wore step-ins instead of panties, passed a good time with her visiting relatives, went ridin’ in the afternoons, had the en vie for chicken stew, and (unable to grasp the concept of reruns) marveled at how good Ed Sullivan looks for his age.

Unable to sleep, she roamed the house at night, checking doors and the refrigerator, one time locking me out in my nightgown at 5:30 a.m. as I picked blackberries in the backyard for a pie.  (Thank you again, George Parker, our neighbor, for your discretion and the use of your bathrobe and phone-)

For no reason at all, she stood barefoot on a railroad tie in our driveway and sang the French National Anthem at the top of her lungs as George and I planted bamboo around our greenhouse.  Another time she and her niece Berta Lou yelled like Janes throughout the evening during a Tarzan marathon, feasting on Doritos and red wine, as George, the boys and I stared from the next room.

In the two years she lived with us, she expected ‘dinner’ on the table each day at noon, shortcuts not allowed.  I apologize here publicly to my stepsons for thinking that they finished off the cakes in the night, leaving me panicked nearly seven days a week for a new homemade dessert.  It was the incessant roach problem that alerted me to the truth, when I found cakes and cokes stored beneath Marie’s bed, hidden, she explained, “from all those kids…..and from Dickie (Hebert)!”

On the road, George called her everyday to reassure her that he was working.  He often recounts the time some friends from California heard her on speakerphone after he explained to her that someone bought a painting for $50,000.

“She got real quiet and then said, ‘How much?’
“So I repeated it slowly.
“‘She paused again before she got mad: “For one of your pictures?  George, you give those poor people’s money back right now!’
“She was more worried about those ‘poor people’ than she was about me.”

Without question, Marie softened with age.  She forgot about Andre’s long hair and Jacques’s girlfriends.  She forgot that she hated Christmas.  And she forgot me altogether.  Unfortunately for George, she remembered that he took her car and that she wanted to go home.  In her own way, a Mother’s way, she loved her son, and she reminisced until the end about his childhood studio in the attic and the way the other mothers cooed at him in the carriage.

While in her early nineties, Marie and George visited his father’s grave in New Iberia, where a cousin left fresh flowers for what would have been his one-hundredth birthday.

“Those hussies,” she snapped, “they’re still after him!”

And she never visited him again.

For better or worse, Marie lived her later years (her last forty, according to George) in the past. Admittedly, the repeated conversations often brought tears to my eyes,

“George, let’s visit Lona,” she said, dressed and ready for the ride.
“Lona’s dead,” he replied.
“Oh yes?  Where’s Caspa?”
“Well then, let’s call Romain....”

But they were all dead.  Finally we lied about that too and spoke of ghosts as though they lived.  We explained that they would visit her next week, as we grabbed a chance, a fleeting chance, to make her happy.


For paintings with Marie Rodrigue, see the posts "Boudreaux in a Barrel" (pictured above) and "The Class of Marie Courrege"

For related posts see "The Artist's Father," "How Baby George Became an Artist" and "The Ghost of Christmas Past"

Also this week, I hope you enjoy "At Home in the Marigny," for Gambit's Blog of New Orleans-

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hank Williams or Moon Mullican: A Blogging Dilemma

“I love how Louisiana artists yell out food names when they run out of lyrics.” -Elizabeth McClanahan, Senior at Loyola University, majoring in Music Industry Studies

I intended this Jazz Fest post for weeks, focused on Hank Williams.  George Rodrigue and I trekked through rural Alabama last month, the Hank Williams Trail, with stops in Montgomery and Georgiana, visiting his homes, towns, and lingering old-timers.

(pictured, Georgiana, Alabama:  "This town is ready for an art colony,"  joked George Rodrigue about Georgiana, recalling our recent visit to Marfa, Texas)

We photographed walls of hit records, 4-sided guitars, railroad tracks, and cemeteries, retracing the short life of a country music legend, a man who questioned his own country-western label, because he hailed from Alabama, not Texas, not even the West.

Hank Williams (1923-1953) is an easy choice for me.  George Rodrigue listens to his music in his studio, alternating with Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison.  As with his 1971 portrait of Cajun accordion player Iry LeJeune, George painted Hank not as a commission, but for himself, recording a slice of Louisiana history, specifically the Hadacol Caravan, the Louisiana Hayride, and "Jambalaya."

(pictured, Hank Williams, 1989, 84x60 inches; Dudley LeBlanc called his elixir 'Hadacol,' because he had-to-call it something)

Hank Williams performed with Dudley LeBlanc’s Hadacol Caravan in 1950 and 1951 in one of America’s last traveling medicine shows.   He joined performers such as Judy Garland, Bob Hope, and Minnie Pearl, traveling on a train through small towns as a promotion for LeBlanc’s so-called elixir.

George remembers watching the Hadacol parade on Main Street in New Iberia:

“It was like the Macy’s Day Parade, but with old beat up balloons.  The entertainers came by train and performed at the New Iberia High Football Stadium on Center Street.  It was 1952, and I needed a box top to see the show.  I was eight years old, but I still remember where I sat.”

When researching the painting, someone told George that Hank joined the Caravan in Lafayette, parking his Cadillac at the Hadacol plant.  After disbanding in Dallas, he hitchhiked back to Lafayette to pick up his car.  Loretta, our guide at Hank’s boyhood home, added to the story:

“One time Dudley LeBlanc gave Hank a Shetland pony.  He took out the backseat of his Cadillac and drove the pony back to Nashville as a gift for Hank Jr.”

According to George, it was the song, not the man, which inspired his painting.   He wanted to record a slice of Louisiana country music more than the country music star, relating the words of the song to the Hadacol Caravan, something he recalled from his childhood.

(pictured, song lyrics in Hank Williams' hand, on display at his boyhood home museum, Georgiana, Alabama)

Yet the origins of Hank’s most famous song are controversial. Unquestionably, Hank Williams wrote music, however there is recent doubt concerning "Jambalaya." As we turned west at Mobile a few weeks ago, heading home to New Orleans, we listened to our favorite radio show, Bill Mack* on Willie’s Place. The discussion centered on "Jambalaya" and a songwriter named Moon Mullican, rumored to have penned the tune.

Mullican (1909-1967), as the story goes, fought with his record label, King Records, and gave Hank the song to record as his own, paying Mullican on the side.  We may never know the complete truth, but after reading similar eyewitness accounts in Williams’ biography, it does seem possible. 

Mullican grew up in east Texas and claimed close Louisiana and especially Cajun ties.  Former Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis (of “You Are My Sunshine” fame) hired Moon, who organized Davis’s campaign entertainment.  The quick-tongued, clever lyricist combined colloquialisms with an animated piano style, influencing not only Hank Williams, but also Jerry Lee Lewis, who said of Moon,

“Check his track record.  It stands for itself!”

(below, great fun with Mullican’s "Jole Blon"; for history and Rodrigue paintings related to the original "Jolie Blonde" visit here)


Hank’s biography spews disillusionment, and it reminds me that we need heroes of all kinds, even if it means romanticizing the life of someone who by many accounts was an unprofessional, plagiarizing, womanizing, racist drunk.  Even as I read and researched, I qualified his history:

Well, I told myself, Johnny Cash was once a wreck too.  But he had a lifetime to get his act together.  Hank died at twenty-nine and never had the chance.

His agent and mentor, Roy Acuff, warned him,

“You’ve got a million-dollar voice, son, but a ten-cent brain.”

Kicked out of the Grand Ole Opry after missed performances and public drunkenness, Hank Williams returned to the Louisiana Hayride, aired nationwide out of Shreveport by KWKH radio, where he performed some of his most famous hits during the last months of his life, including “Take These Chains From My Heart and Set Me Free” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”

It was the Hayride that made Hank famous, recorded on a clear channel, just like New Orleans’ WWL radio recorded from the Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel.

Strapped for money in 1952, Hank Williams sold tickets to his wedding, two sold-out performances at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans, featuring Tommy Hill, Vin Bruce, Jimmy Swan, and other Louisiana Hayride entertainers.

(pictured, an ad from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, 1952)

Ten weeks later the country legend died in the backseat of his Cadillac, his body still young, but fragile and damaged.  For most folks Hank Williams is the greatest country music star of all times, recording thirty-five singles in the top ten Billboard Charts before his twenty-ninth birthday.  It’s easy to write off his abusive and self-destructive ways as the results of back pain, poverty and early fame.  It’s even easier and, to my mind, preferable, to focus on the music and a singing 'hero,' ignoring the trainwreck all together.

(pictured, Hank Williams by George Rodrigue, 1995)


For a related post, including an account of a near death experience in a Georgiana, Alabama graveyard, see the post “Distinguished Eagle

*Bill Mack recently hosted his last show for “Willie’s Place” on Sirius Radio; I recall one of many cross-country drives, entertained by his program and the road, here-


-Phil Davies for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame 1999 
-*Colin Escott, Hank Williams The Biography, Hachette Book Group, New York 2004
-Brian Turpen and Robert Gentry,  Hank Williams & Billie Jean Jones:  A Country Music Wedding Extravaganza, Old Paths, New Dreams Publishing, Many, LA 2010

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Art Abounds

“Cracklins are the purest form of pork; minimalist pork, if you will.” –Doug MacCash*

Art abounds at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and on the streets of New York City.  If we pay attention, art abounds in life.

“Look around this room,” I hear George Rodrigue tell students during school visits.  “Everything you see -your desk, the light fixtures, your clothing- was designed by an artist.”

(pictured, George Rodrigue with Lamp/Bear 2005 by Urs Fischer; 35,000 pounds resting temporarily on Park Avenue and 52nd Street, NYC)

Although we missed the first weekend of Jazz Fest, during a short week in New York City, sans the music, the experience was if not similar, at least comparable.  In between publisher meetings (yes, new projects in the works-) we enriched our lives and our waistlines, reuniting with friends at Babbo and Red Rooster Harlem, and visiting museums and galleries as we normally would the Jazz Fest craft tents. 

(pictured, George Rodrigue with his son Jacques Rodrigue at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, where we saw a brilliant exhibition spanning a decade of portraits inspired by Picasso’s mistress.  “The more I see of Picasso,” I told George, “the more I’m convinced that no one could touch him in 20th century art.” Related post here)

Of our museum visits, we missed two on my list, and I regret it as much as I regret missing an old high school friend who lives in the city, as well as his friend’s gallery, priorities, if they’ll still have us, for our next trip.  Crazy, I know, but we skipped Richard Serra and the Mummies (not together, but doesn’t that have a ring?) at the Met and Rembrandt at the Frick, settling instead for classic portraits of Shakespeare at the Morgan Library and Picasso's Guitars at MOMA, along with a lengthy study of an old favorite, an enormous man wearing an enormous robe.

(pictured, Rodin’s Balzac; I read this week that when Rodin invited the young sculptor Brancusi to apprentice in his Paris studio in 1904, Brancusi declined, saying, “Nothing grows in the shade of a tall tree.”)

We spent an afternoon in the studio of an adopted Louisiana favorite, artist Hunt Slonem, where butterflies, Abraham Lincoln, and parrots (both live and painted), fill fifteen thousand square feet of an old studio, moving shortly ten blocks down the street to thirty thousand square feet of a new one.

(pictured, old studio:  George Rodrigue with Abraham Lincoln; Wall of Rabbits; Rodrigue and New Orleans artist Mallory Page discuss art)

(pictured, new studio: artist Hunt Slonem; Rodrigue and Slonem discuss the challenges of studio space in front of Slonem's painting from a recent exhibition at the University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; a glimpse -maybe one fourth- of Slonem's new space)

Proving again that life itself is art, the women of our motley crew attended a Royal Wedding Party in Greenwich Village.  We navigated a sea of paparazzi, ate bacon sandwiches and trout with eggs, and cheered the happy couple.  As we headed home, dreary and tipsy before 9 a.m., the day also marked a first in the lifetime of legendary NYC publishing agent Roz Cole, an event, according to her, every bit as momentous as the wedding itself. A stranger, you see, gave us his cab.

“Can you believe it?,” she exclaimed.  “What an incredible morning!” 

…all in all, I thought to myself, as we sat in a pub at sunrise, drinking pink champagne and dressed in wedding-guest attire, no different than home


*Doug MacCash writes about art for the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Pictured above, Dominique Coulter of Ireland, Mallory Page Chastant of New Orleans, Roz Cole of NYC, Wendy Rodrigue of New Orleans, Emer Ferguson of Ireland

For a detailed account of our recent museum adventures, see the post “Modern Art in New York” for this week’s Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans here

For George Rodrigue’s history with the Jazz Fest poster, visit here

I’m tweeting for the next few days from Houston, Texas and the contemporary art collection of Chris and Don Sanders, followed by Jazz Fest in New Orleans.  Hope you'll join me-
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