George Rodrigue has a long history with Shreveport, a northern Louisiana city oftentimes dismissed by southern Louisiana as ‘east Texas.’ As a child, Rodrigue’s own family, in fact, ignored this important part of Louisiana’s culture:
“Growing up in New Iberia,” says George Rodrigue, “our travel plans meant east to New Orleans or Biloxi, or west to Houston. We never went north past Opelousas. I had no knowledge of Shreveport, Monroe, or any of those places. The only thing I knew about Shreveport was what I heard on my radio, the small version of Nashville’s Grand Ol’ Opry, known as the Louisiana Hayride.”
(pictured, Blue Dogs on the Red River, 2011, a silkscreen and painting celebrating the exhibition, “George Rodrigue: Blue Dogs, Louisiana Governors and Russian President Gorbachev,” Sept 23 – Dec 30, 2011, at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Shreveport)
George is the first to admit today, however, that Shreveport, much like its neighbor Monroe, embraces its Louisiana heritage with as much pride as its more famous southern cousin. Furthermore, the north Louisiana city contributes significant cultural history to the South and to America, through Ducks Unlimited, the Louisiana Hayride, and the Red River Revel.
-click photos to enlarge-
These types of events, in fact, first called George Rodrigue north, specifically the Louisiana State Fair (pictured above) and Ducks Unlimited during the 1980s.
“My first collectors were Carl Wiley Jones, Sissy Levine, Lee Hall, Palmer Long, Albert Sklar, and Virginia Shehee. My first formal show in Shreveport was a bank exhibition hosted by Carl Jones sometime in the late 1970s.”
“Carl Jones introduced me to my biggest collectors in Shreveport. One day he walked into my gallery in Lafayette and bought some small Cajun paintings for his duck camp on Grand Lake in south Louisiana. Eventually he enticed me up north, where I painted for Ducks Unlimited, first for the Shreveport Chapter, and then for the National Chapter’s convention in New Orleans.”
In the late 1990s, Shreveport’s siren called us back again, this time for the Red River Revel. George and I spent five days each year of 1997, 1998 and 1999 promoting arts education and cultural awareness in a city that, by this time, we’d both grown to love.
At the Red River Revel, beneath large tents for area school children, we first practiced our painting demonstrations and lectures, presentations we’ve since taken across the country and shared dozens of times.
(pictured, a painting demonstration at the Alexandria Museum of Art earlier this year; click photo to enlarge, and read more here)
Later this month, we return to Shreveport with a series of events and a major exhibition of work by George Rodrigue. “Blue Dogs, Louisiana Governors and Russian President Gorbachev,” features paintings from the permanent collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art, private collectors, and the artist’s personal archives, including paintings from the Xerox and Neiman Marcus collections, all five of Rodrigue’s Governor’s portraits, and the complete Saga of the Acadians.
(pictured, At the Head of the Red River 2011 acrylic on canvas 48x72 inches)
This exhibition is the last stop of a seven-city statewide tour organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art in celebration of its centennial, and currently on view at the LSU Museum of Art in Baton Rouge (through September 18, 2011, detailed here).
From the beginning, neither George nor I saw Shreveport as an eastern Dallas or a northern New Orleans. Rather, we appreciate it as a unique southern city, unfairly labeled ‘the north’ by much of the state, even as Shreveport cheers on the Saints and LSU. They came through for us with tremendous support following Hurricane Katrina, and they appreciate with enthusiasm our cultural Louisiana anomalies --- like gumbo and crawfish farms and cypress trees and Huey Long and ….. Blue Dogs!
“George Rodrigue: Blue Dogs, Louisiana Governors and Russian President Gorbachev” opens at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum Sept 23 to December 30, 2011
Shreveport museum events with the artist include Glitz and Grits on Sept 23 and a painting demo/lecture on Sept 24. Space is limited. For tickets and information visit http://friendsoflsem.org/ or call (318) 632-2020
For information on price, size, and availability regarding the silkscreen Blue Dogs on the Red River visit www.georgerodrigue.com
For more on Rodrigue’s Ducks Unlimited and Festival posters, see the post “Fairs and Festivals”
And on a personal note….. Many thanks to all of you who read and shared “For New Orleans,” my recent post-Katrina tribute for Gambit. It received record-breaking readership and response, resonating in ways I never expected-