I’ve pondered how to write about this past weekend without turning my blog into a society page of party pics from the Louisiana State University Museum of Art's opening for "Blue Dogs and Cajuns on the River." But it seems there's no way around it. Everyone was there, snapping photographs, posing for TV cameras, and eating chicken fingers (thanks to Raising Cane’s).
George Rodrigue enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience with his portrait subjects, governors and lieutenant governors, all on hand and smiling for the cameras.
(pictured, Marion Edwards, George Rodrigue, Governor Edwin Edwards; Rodrigue painted Governor Edwards' portrait, on view until 9/23 at the LSU Museum of Art, in 1983; for the history of Rodrigue's portraits of Louisiana's Governors, visit here)
Most swooned over Governor Edwin Edwards, recently released from prison and newly married (as of today) to Trina Grimes Scott of Alexandria. They seem happy, which can’t be easy given the public spotlight, and I wondered especially about her, growing up in small town central Louisiana, facing scrutiny regarding her sincerity and character (and his), as she settles down with a man more than fifty years her senior.
I thought of her also as I tore the extended label from the wall alongside Wendy and Me, our wedding portrait, incorrectly dated 2010.
“I’ve come too far to face the naysayers again,” I explained, insisting that the museum correct the date to 1997, restoring my credibility, as I shuddered at a replay of “It will never last.”
When possible, I avoided the crowds and swooned less over Edwards and more over Governor Blanco, bravely fighting eye cancer, venturing out sans makeup, viewing the show through a blur because she wanted to support George Rodrigue, her hometown friend of more than fifty years.
(pictured, George and Wendy Rodrigue, Governor Kathleen Blanco, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, Coach Raymond Blanco; Rodrigue's portrait of Governor Blanco hangs behind; click photo to enlarge)
I embraced Marion Edwards, in his brother’s shadow once again, and yet devoted to his sibling and to his state. I watched and admired a man in his eighties cling to good ol’ boy Louisiana while encouraging his wife Penny’s interest in yoga, the arts and the environment through her foundation, Environmentalists Without Borders.
(pictured, Wendy and George Rodrigue with Penny and Marion Edwards; Marion's portrait as King of the Washington D.C. Mardi Gras, 1984, hangs behind; click photo to enlarge)
After greeting several thousand visitors over four days in Baton Rouge, I remained nervous even after our return to New Orleans, second-guessing the lectures, meetings, and tours, hoping people felt appreciated, so that they know how much this means not only to George, but also to me, to his sons, and to his friends, all of us proud of his accomplishments and eager to share this forty-five year diverse collection of paintings with others.
(pictured, George Rodrigue shares his early landscapes with Todd Graves of Raising Cane’s, who helped sponsor this exhibition)
I was pleased on opening night to see friends from the New Orleans Museum of Art, staff members Marilyn Dittmann and Gail Asprodites, and NOMA Trustee Brian Schneider, supporting George Rodrigue and this exhibition, inspired by NOMA’s collection of Rodrigue paintings.
In their honor, as with our recent visit to the Alexandria Museum of Art, I focused on paintings from the touring NOMA exhibition, Copley to Warhol, celebrating the museum’s centennial and opening this fall in Baton Rouge, interweaving these great American works with paintings by George Rodrigue as I spoke within the Manship Theatre while George painted alongside me.
(pictured, Sunday in the Manship Theatre, including the first Blue Dog painting, featured on screen and in the exhibition; click photo to enlarge)
George paused mid-lecture and reminded the audience of his first visit to Baton Rouge, a 1971 exhibition at the Old State Capitol, resulting in a hard lesson and his first newspaper review, a feature in the Sunday Advocate: “Painter Makes Bayou Country Dreary, Monotonous Place."
The audience laughed at the irony, having seen the current exhibition's far different review, also in the Sunday Advocate: “Blue Dog Days; George Rodrigue’s iconic canine stars in the LSU Museum of Art.” Of note is that the paintings featured in that 1971 exhibition and article are on view now in the LSU MOA show.
We look forward to several more rounds of events at the LSU Museum of Art, as well as a fresh start at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport this fall, the last stop on our statewide tour.
Thank you, Louisiana, for visiting these shows and welcoming us to your cities. We hope the exhibition, the events, and our appreciation through personal appearances is everything you expected….and more.
For information on upcoming events with George Rodrigue at the LSU Museum of Art, visit here
Also, I hope you enjoy “Remembering Old Biloxi,” a love letter to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, my latest post for Gambit