Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cora’s Restaurant and CODOFIL


In 1968 attorney and former Louisiana State Senator and U.S. Representative Jimmy Domengeaux* (1907-1988) of Lafayette founded the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, known as CODOFIL. Impressed with the initiative, Louisiana Governor John McKeithen pushed through a bill that granted the organization the necessary state credentials.


(pictured:  In 1912 Louisiana Governor Hall issued a special edict that French could no longer be spoken in schools; George Rodrigue’s He-bert, Yes – A Bear, No is one of fifteen paintings from his Saga of the Acadians, 1985-1989, detailed here-)
In order to save the French culture in Louisiana, Domengeaux, CODOFIL’s president from 1968 until his death in 1988, championed the French language, reintroducing it into the state’s public schools. Through an ambitious plan, he imported teachers from France and Canada to Louisiana and, remarkably, convinced the French government to fund the program.
The first one hundred and fifty applicants chose between two years in the French army and two years in the small town parishes of Louisiana. They lived in private homes and taught the proper French, as opposed to the Cajun dialect, a controversial decision that resulted in mixed and prolific press for Domengeaux, whose bigger-than-life persona attracted considerable public attention.
“He was sarcastic, flamboyant and crude,” explains artist George Rodrigue about his old friend, “and he was desperate to preserve the unique culture of south Louisiana, just as I tried with my paintings. 
“We got along great.”


(pictured:  Rodrigue and Domengeaux with Rodrigue’s Broussard’s Barber Shop, The Lafayette Daily Advertiser, 1971-)
It was Domengeaux who told George about Cora’s Restaurant, a combination grocery store, boarding house, restaurant and bar located during the 1930s and 1940s in the country outside of Lafayette.
“There’s no record of these old places,” explained Domengeaux.

George painted the long-gone establishment using his imagination, but based on his friend’s description. According to Domengeaux, the restaurant’s cuisine was more Creole than Cajun. Known for great food, Cora’s and places like it were unusual because of their diversity, attracting Cajuns, Creoles and African Americans. 

The place employed a large staff, including children, most of whom boarded on the property. For the painting, George invented the people, recreating them in his typical Cajun style, all in white, without shadow, and locked into the landscape.

(pictured:  Cora’s Restaurant, 1975 by George Rodrigue, oil on canvas, 36x48 inches; click photo to enlarge-)
According to George, Domengeaux grew frustrated with the general lack of interest in this faded part of Louisiana’s history. In Cora’s Restaurant, beneath the enormous oaks, these timeless figures glow with Louisiana’s culture, reinforcing on canvas both Rodrigue’s and Domengeaux’s mission.
In addition, Domengeaux and Rodrigue held shows in Lafayette for French painters Valadier, Surrier and Brenot, presenting the artists with keys to the city and exposing the local community to these French masters. At one such exhibition in the late 1970s, French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing attended, with hopes of further strengthening the Louisiana-France bond.

(pictured:  Artists Valadier, Madame Surrier, Surrier, and Rodrigue; a Valadier painting leans on the floor, and a Surrier hangs on the wall; The Lafayette Daily Advertiser, circa 1979-)
By the late 1970s, Domengeaux's fame extended to France, where people often thought that he was the President of Louisiana. According to George, Domengeaux enjoyed more clout than Governor Edwin Edwards. At one point, in fact, the CODOFIL president tussled with the State Department for cutting a deal on his own with a foreign government. As usual, however, Domengeaux charmed his way out of the mess and got what he wanted.
Whether or not one applauds his methods, Jimmy Domengeaux’s pride in Louisiana’s heritage drove his life’s mission and deserves admiration. His efforts produced a lasting and positive effect on our state. At a time when many dismissed Louisiana’s fading culture, particularly the French influences within small town, southwest Acadiana, he cherished it. Through CODOFIL, one man made a difference.
“I’m proud to have known Domengeaux,” says George Rodrigue about his old friend. “He’s a true Louisiana legend.”

Wendy
*the pronunciation of “Domengeaux” is close to “DiMaggio,” as in the baseball player-
-a new Rodrigue book, The Other Side of the Painting, is “an illuminating, lively memoir recounting a husband and wife’s devotion to the arts;” learn more here-
-for more art and discussion, please join me on facebook-


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Friday, November 29, 2013

Rembrandt: A Memory


In the summer of 2005, George Rodrigue and I visited Amsterdam.  Rembrandt’s house was recently opened to the public.  Because he declared bankruptcy, a detailed list exists of his 1656 belongings, enabling today’s historians to replace every furnishing, fossil, and vase from his vast collections.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was an art rock star, both during his lifetime and since. Without gallery representation, he sold his work from a gallery inside his home (just as George did for years), ushering potential buyers into a side room, where they chose from his latest paintings, hung salon-style, stacked to high ceilings. 

(pictured below, a wall of Rodrigue festival posters in the artist’s home, Lafayette, Louisiana, circa 1985; also, Rodrigue Studio today, New Orleans-)

-click photos to enlarge-



Rembrandt lived well, even lavishly, in a situation as rare at that time as it is today – a financially successful artist; and, in a less surprising scenario, an artist living beyond his means.

Touring his home felt like prying and honoring, similar to a tour of Graceland.  For George and me, homage and curiosity won out over snooping as, at our guide’s insistence, George created an etching from a copper plate on Rembrandt’s printing press.

I watched the face of this great 21st century artist as he operated the press and then, almost beyond belief, sat at the great 17th century artist’s easel.   He laughed nervously, but fully, his distinct features more pronounced than ever, helplessly khee-hee-hee-ing, a sound as associated by his friends with George as it is by cartoon-lovers with Snagglepuss. 

We lost our camera on that trip, but perhaps my memory is the better record, as I recall George star struck over an artist more than three hundred years dead.

George Rodrigue’s face reflects a Cajun's and artist's ethos.  It’s memorable, with exaggerated features.  His pronounced cheeks protrude, and his deep set green eyes watch intently without widening.  His nose, chin, mouth and forehead have what most people call “character,” defined by hard lines, not to be confused with wrinkles, forming shapes on his face similar to the strong shapes on his canvas


(pictured, George Rodrigue with his portrait by New Orleans artist David Harouni, 2012; learn more here-)

Rembrandt also had a distinctive face.  We know this because of his self-portraits, nearly one hundred in all, including paintings, etchings, and drawings.  They chronicle his changes in visage and maturity, while also reflecting his deep understanding of his creative calling.


As George sat at Rembrandt’s easel, I sat across the room at Rembrandt’s apprentice’s table.  Using a mortar and pestle, I ground the colored rocks into powder, adding linseed oil to make paste and, finally, paint, connecting me also to the past, so that I shared in George’s moment.

Wendy

-for a related post, see "Blue Fall in Louisiana," linked here-

-for the latest reviews of The Other Side of the Painting, a new Rodrigue book, click here-

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Truth, I Swear

My sister talked me into posting "15 facts that people might not know" recently on my family facebook page.  The reactions ranged from surprise to confessions to fun. Emboldened, and as a little something different on this blog, I post them again here, along with a few photos (click to enlarge).  

1-I was born on a military base in Dover, Delaware.


2-When I was five, my mom, while pregnant, asked me to name my sister, which I did while picking flowers in the woods on Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany.

(pictured, Wendy, Germany, 1969)


3-I gave our mom three options: Dandelion, Edelweiss, and Heather.



(pictured, Mama brings Heather home from the hospital, Germany, 1972)


4-I had a pet squirrel named Fuzzy Wuzzy that I hand-fed from my bedroom window in Shalimar, Florida.




(pictured, our house, 16 Magnolia Drive, 1973-1977, in Shalimar, Florida, as it looks today; my bedroom window was on the 2nd floor, far left-)


5-Fuzzy Wuzzy was shot dead in 1975 by my best friend's brother, using a bb gun. I'm still mad.

6-Chip Totten was my first boyfriend. We were seven.


(note: Chip commented that I later cornered him for a kiss beneath our 4th grade classroom table; however, having blocked that out years ago, I don't recall it as a fact-)


7-My senior year of high school, my "profession test" stated that I should attend vo-tech school and become a mechanic.



(pictured, Mama/Mignon, Heather, Wendy/Dolores, and HAIR, during Mardi Gras, my senior year of high school, 1985)


8-As a teenager, my cousin Kelly gave me the pseudonym, "Dolores Pepper." The name stuck, and I dated several guys well into my 20s who thought that was my name.




(pictured above, a young Dolores Pepper and Flower Anne (a.k.a. Kelly), 1970s, New Orleans; below, George Rodrigue's silkscreen, created after I fessed up, and in our honor, Dolores Pepper and Flower Anne, 2009, on view at Rodrigue Studio; read more about Dolores and Flower, if you dare, in The Other Side of the Painting-)


9-In the 1980s, my mom let me join her and her friends for Ladies Night at the Seagull and the Landing (both long-gone nightspots in Fort Walton Beach, Florida), provided I call her "Mignon." If I slipped up, I had to leave.

10-I was once mistaken for Kim Basinger while buying a Christmas tree. The guy at the lot insisted I take the tree for free. I gave him an autograph.

11-During family gatherings, I sometimes call my husband, "Dad," and my dad, "George." Fortunately, alcohol is always involved.




(pictured, Heather, Dad and me, when Heather and I surprised our dad for his birthday with a double-renewal of our wedding vows during a 2005 pool party, New Orleans; the purpose was to get pictures with both of his daughters in their wedding dresses; riiiiiggghhhtttt....-)

12-After wearing them for months, I complained to George that the "R" is backwards in the "WR" earrings he designed. Turns out I was looking at them in the mirror.

13-I have so many Neil Diamond shirts that I can't count them all. I would like a Neil Diamond hoodie, but I haven't found one yet.


(note: before you start looking, the links are already pouring in, and I feel fairly sure I'll find one under the tree this year-)

14-For years, I have highlighted my hair.

15-My two favorite words are "Aunt Wendy."




Hope you enjoyed; next post, back to the arts!

Wendy

-pictured above, nephews Wyatt and William with Zoey; Tallahassee, Florida, October 2013; see also my sister Heather's blog, Adventures of a BMX Mom, linked here-


-for the latest reviews of The Other Side of the Painting, a new Rodrigue book, visit here-


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Monday, November 11, 2013

The Lone Artist


“The artist is involved with art as a way of life.”*

George Rodrigue and I discuss often the definition of art.  We study the roles of craft, commercialism, high and low art, concluding always that there is no definitive answer, but that the fun ---indeed the tradition--- lies in the debates.

Ideally, art reflects the artist's soul and stimulates a personal connection for the viewer.  While creating, however, the artist exists in a solitary place, separate in both thought and actuality from the opinions and influence of others.

“I see no need for a community,” stated artist David Hare (1917-1992).  “An artist is always lonely.  The artist is a man who functions beyond or ahead of his society.”


(pictured, It’s Never the Same, 2007 by George Rodrigue, acrylic on canvas, 36x24 inches, on view at Rodrigue Studio-)

This week George and I read together the transcripts from Studio 35, specifically a three-day gathering in 1950 of Abstract Expressionists (although they debated that label as well), including Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell, Louise Bourgeois and a few dozen others.  During these closed sessions, the artists debated terminology and addressed questions such as,

How do you know when a painting is finished? Is it better to title a painting or give it a number? Should artwork be signed? Can a straight line be considered a pure expression?


(pictured, Five Balls, 1963 by George Rodrigue, oil on canvas, 40x40 inches; click photo to enlarge-)

Their comments spanned the width of their minds, as they blended experience, contemplation, and personalities.  I asked George the questions too, because I recognized in these artists similar approaches to his own.

“I don’t understand, in a painting,” noted Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967), “the love of anything except the love of painting itself.”

….and from George Rodrigue: 

“My favorite painting is always the one I’m working on now.”


When discussing how to know when a painting is finished, several artists spoke of the need for multiple works.

“That’s why you have to study ten to fifteen paintings together,” interjected George, as though he sat in on this session.  “If one stands off from the others, then you’ve overworked it, and it’s too much.

“The group is more important than the single canvas, especially when it comes to learning how to stop.  Looking at the group is the only way to see what you’re doing.”


(pictured, George Rodrigue works on Bodies in his Carmel studio, 2004; click photo to enlarge-)

Regarding process and philosophy, the group never agreed, reaffirming the personal nature of art.  They all agreed in their dismissal, however, of not only public popularity, but also museums and academia, an irony given their status on all fronts today.  George, too, lumps these audiences together:

“If you try to paint to please a public or a critic,” says George, “you’ll never create anything lasting, anything new, or anything purely your own.”

This attitude dictates approach.  In George’s case, for example, he ignores outside perception (most often, too many Blue Dogs, or for years, too many Oaks), in favor of what he knows to be true regarding the challenges in repeating these subjects.  For him, as he works within this four-sided canvas environment, shapes and colors are king.  It is because of this abstract approach that he never tires of his subjects.

“One shape in relation to other shapes makes the ‘expression;’ not one shape or another, but the relations between the two makes the ‘meaning’.” –Hans Hofmann (1880-1966)


(pictured, The Last Puzzle Piece, 2013 by George Rodrigue, acrylic on canvas, 40x60; click photo to enlarge-)

By the time George reached art school in the 1960s, his professors spoke of “the death of easel painting.”  The same museums and academic elite that once eschewed the Abstract Expressionists now revered their movement, pushing it to the forefront of popular culture as well.  Pop Art was the new guy on the block, dismissed in the same way as its predecessors.

(pictured, “We are so walking on a Pollock painting,” gasped sisters and artists Mallory Page and Natalie Domingue, visiting recently Jackson Pollock’s house and studio in East Hampton, New York; click photo to enlarge-)


“I can tell by their questions that these are all artists from the 50s,” continued George about the Studio 35 sessions.  “As time went by, the questions answered themselves, because the progression of art – not the artists themselves – dictates the direction.”

Wendy

*David Hare, from Artists’ Sessions at Studio 35 (1950), Edited by Robert Goodnough, Soberscove Press/Wittenborn Art Books, 2009-

-visit this link for the latest reviews of The Other Side of the Painting, published October 2013, UL Press-

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

An Exhibition from the Other Side


This month, the State Library of Louisiana premieres an exhibition based on a new Rodrigue book, The Other Side of the Painting, on view through February 2014.  Unable to attend the November 2nd opening in Baton Rouge, George Rodrigue and I relied on curator Marney Robinson, who astonished us with her ability to fully utilize a one-walled space at the library’s entrance.

To create the exhibition, Robinson borrowed paintings by various artists from within our personal collection, including George Rodrigue’s original works from his archives, corresponding to vignettes from the UL Press publication, The Other Side of the Painting.  Eleven of the sixteen pieces are on public display for the first time.

-click photo to enlarge-


(pictured:  The Other Side of the Painting:  A Special Exhibition, on view through February 2014 at the State Library of Louisiana, Baton Rouge-)

“This exhibition gives viewers a taste of the original art that inspired Wendy to write her book," explains George Rodrigue.  “This includes not only my early art, but also paintings from her mother and interesting photographs, such as the King Tut line at the New Orleans Museum of Art from 1977. 
"Both Wendy and I congratulate Marney Robinson for her selection and her eye for installation.  We could not be more pleased with the finished exhibition.”

(pictured, Curator of Exhibitions, Marney Robinson, with her favorite grouping from the new exhibition at the State Library of Louisiana, including Spring Bouquet, 1979 by Mignon Wolfe, Hot Dog Halo, 1995 by George Rodrigue, and the King Tut line, 1977, courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art; click photo to enlarge-)


“Marney is rockin’ it!”

…says Bethany France, Director of Louisiana A+ Schools for the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts (GRFA), who joined Robinson for the exhibition’s premiere during the Louisiana Book Festival this weekend. 

Simultaneously, our foundation unveils its latest project, a cookbook in partnership with the Louisiana Restaurant AssociationThe Pot and the Palette features award-winning student artwork from GRFA’s annual scholarship art contest, including recipes from Louisiana’s greatest chefs and restaurants.


(pictured, GRFA’s Director of Development, Wayne Fernandez, with artist Mallory Page at the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts Education Center, New Orleans; also pictured, George Rodrigue’s hand-painted fiberglass LSU cow and a mixed media on metal; click photo to enlarge-)

Although not quite a George Rodrigue biography, The Other Side of the Painting is the closest publication to date, a memoir recounting our personal histories and our love of the arts.  As a result, this exhibition is revealing as well, explaining the origins of some of Rodrigue’s most famous works through the photographs, artists and histories that inspired him.

-click photos to enlarge-


The wall also includes original Rodrigue sketches and student artwork, including his Creature from the Black Lagoon from 1957, as well as the book's cover image, painted on illustration board while Rodrigue studied at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, 1965.  Other works include his original Ragin' Cajun (1979), a classic 1969 landscape, and a painting from the Xerox Collection (2000).

“It makes for a very diverse exhibit,” explains Rodrigue, “and it provides the viewer with a better understanding of how this book formed around not only my art, but also mine and Wendy’s art-filled life together.”


Wendy

-this exhibition is free and open to the public thru Feb 2014; hours and location details at this link;  George Rodrigue and I extend our appreciation to Jim Davis, Robert Wilson, the Louisiana Book Festival, and the State Library of Louisiana-

-read the latest reviews of The Other Side of the Painting here-

-all proceeds from the book, The Other Side of the Painting, benefit the arts in education programs of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts; order here-

-all proceeds from The Pot and the Palette benefit the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation and the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts; order here-

-for more art and discussion, please join me on facebook-


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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rodrigue Honored Tonight


On October 26, 2013, George Rodrigue receives in New Orleans the prestigious Opus Award from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art during their annual gala, O What a Night!.  Unable to attend the event, we asked Jacques Rodrigue, his fiancé Mallory Page Chastant, and André Rodrigue to accept the award on George's behalf, and to speak for us.  Below is the speech in its entirety.

Jacques, speaking for his dad:

I’ve always said that if I wasn’t born in Louisiana, I would have never accomplished what I have in the art world, because my career started out by trying to recapture old Louisiana, and to show how different our state is from the rest of the country.


(pictured, Broken Limb...Girard Oak, 1975 by George Rodrigue, 24x30, oil on canvas)

But as I got into it, I realized that every part of America is unique, and that many artists over the past 200 years captured the parts of the country that moved them most.

When I returned from art school in California in 1967, I saw Louisiana in a completely different way.  I tried to create a style that would express the Louisiana of the past.  As I got into it, I realized that this was just the beginning of a series that would lead into the present day, with subject matter including customs, traditions, people, and the landscape.


(pictured, George Rodrigue's studio, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1973; click photo to enlarge-)

After 25 years focused on this premise, I painted an old French-Cajun tale of the loup-garou, which evolved over another 25 years into what the Blue Dog is today.  As with my Cajun series, I had no idea it would last all of this time --- in my mind, on my canvas, or for the public.


(pictured, Loup-garou, 1991 by George Rodrigue, 72x48, oil on canvas; click photo to enlarge-)

Meanwhile, Roger Ogden and a few friends had a vision to exhibit southern art and preserve it for future generations.  This building has truly become a warehouse of southern treasures that probably would never have been appreciated to this extent were it not for their efforts.

Both Roger and I started in Lafayette.  I remember hearing years ago that he was putting together a collection of local artists and southern artists, with the idea of opening a museum one day. From the beginning, I hoped to be a part of this story and legacy in some way.

Thank you to everyone associated with the Ogden Museum of Southern Art for presenting me with the Opus Award.  I am truly touched by this recognition.

Mallory, speaking for Wendy:

As George’s wife, I live a blessed life immersed in the arts.  But it’s more than that.  George has a unique way of seeing the world, both literally, as with his breakdown of oak trees and the interesting shapes formed between their branches, and abstractly, as in the life’s lessons gained from an illness, or the possibilities within space, dreams, and the origin of man. 

He explained once: 
“Every great artist has taken a common thing and made people see it in a different way.”

He also said:  
“The closer you are to who you really are, is the best thing; yet most people can’t get past 5 p.m.”


(pictured, Soul Mates, 1997 by George Rodrigue, silkscreen edition 50)

In 2003 the Metropolitan Museum of Art held an exhibition of Thomas Struth photographs.  The life-size images showed museum-goers viewing great works of art.  At George’s suggestion, we watched from around a corner as visitors approached a photograph and stared not at the image of people looking at a Degas street scene, but rather at the Degas street scene itself --- despite the fact that the actual painting hung on the wall on another floor of this same museum.

“They can’t see!” 

...said George.  And through his observation, as I have many times in the past twenty-three years, I saw more clearly.


(pictured, sharing art at the Alexandria Museum of Art, surrounded by Copley to Warhol, a traveling exhibition from the New Orleans Museum of Art; click photo to enlarge-)

Following the exhibition, we sat on a bench in the Metropolitan’s Great Hall.  A video portrait by Struth illuminated a large wall, perhaps 20 or 30 feet high, between the columns.  The giant head of a woman blinked her eyes or twitched her nose, while otherwise remaining still. 

After a long period of silence, I voiced both our thoughts:

“The Blue Dog.”

As we left the museum and walked, on that beautiful fall day exactly ten years ago, into New York’s Central Park, George replied, 

“I’ll never see it, Wendy…

          ….but you will.”

André, speaking for both his dad and Wendy:

Following that day long ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we’ve known many wonderful recognitions and exhibitions for George’s art.  As he predicted, however, the Metropolitan has not come calling!  

Yet, to our surprise, hanging in the greatest museum in the world no longer feels important.  Rather, we’ve found greater personal rewards in the classroom, sharing our story and George’s vision with students

It’s the kids who bridge the art.

(pictured, Edwins Elementary School, Fort Walton Beach, Florida; click photo to enlarge-)



We’ve learned that to be studied by a child is the best way to connect with the future and is more important than hanging on the walls with the great masters. 

We’ve also learned that the greatest honor is to be recognized by our peers, especially fellow Louisiana artists and art lovers.  Similar to seeking the respect of one’s parents, all George ever really wanted was to be appreciated at home.



(pictured, Aioli Dinner, 1971 by George Rodrigue, 32x46, oil on canvas; unveiled with Roger Ogden  at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 2012; click photo to enlarge-)

We are both humbled and honored by George receiving the Opus Award, and we apologize, from the depths of our southern souls, that we cannot be there to thank you in person.

In 1974, during an interview with the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, George Rodrigue said these words:  

“At this time, artists should try to produce something from themselves, or from their area --- that’s where art is headed today.  All America really has left in art is what one feels.”



***
Wendy

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Monday, October 21, 2013

The Right Thing


“I hate the right thing to do...” 

...grumbled my young cousin, her back to me as she descended the stairs.  This was several years ago in New Orleans, and I had just pushed her towards something that seemed terribly important at the time.  Her reaction to my vague reasoning reverberates like my own adolescent reaction to my mother’s frequent rebuttal, “…because I said so.”

Yet I lectured myself with the same words in recent weeks, as I postponed indefinitely a long-anticipated book tour.

George Rodrigue endures unpredictable side effects from his medications.  Like many who fight such diseases, even with successful treatment, he has good days and bad, defined lately by an overall lack of stamina.  For now, this precludes any travel.  However, this too shall pass, beginning with, I have no doubt, a return to his easel, a comfort zone he misses, and a place he’s sat only once, briefly, in the past few months.

-pictured, George's studio, photographed this morning, Carmel, CA; click photo to enlarge-


“You’re not alone in this...” 

...people keep telling me, as though I too am suffering.

I know that!  I’ve always known that!  George and I have never doubted our strong support system of family, friends and community.  It’s true, however, that with the exception of a brief outing during the Carmel Art and Film Festival, he prefers, for now anyway, home and all the things that come with it ---the view, the owls, football, and foot rubs--- over the public life.

Yet he continues to impact friends and strangers not only with his artwork, but also with a presence that resonates beyond this Carmel Valley mountain, through Cajun stories and project-planning and an unwavering concern for others.

“You have to celebrate your book...” 

...insists George, even as he knows deep down that, for me, it’s not the right thing to do.  And so I postpone events, successfully halting his protests with a firm and familiar because I said so.


(pictured, all proceeds from The Other Side of the Painting, a memoir recently published by UL Press and based on this blog, benefit the arts in education programs of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts; learn more here; and read a review from The Lafayette Advertiser here-)

To those of you who organized signings and readings, thank you.  Some of you did this several times, moving dates without complaint, only to have me cancel again.  To those of you who marked your calendars to attend these events, thank you.  And to both the hosts and guests, from the bottom of my heart, I apologize for not coming through.

George and I still do hope to make a few things.  The Ogden’s O What a Night!, for example, when George is to receive the museum’s prestigious Opus Award, remains on our calendar, as does the Musical Tribute to George Rodrigue in Destin, Florida.  Up to the last minute, we hope to attend these special events and, as a back-up, George’s sons, André and Jacques, stand by to fill in for their dad, expressing his gratitude for these honors.


(pictured, George Rodrigue with sons Jacques and Andre, Carmel, California, October 2013)

Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, Louisiana Capitol Park, Baton Rouge

11:00 a.m. – Exhibit chat with curator Marney Robinson, showcasing a special exhibition of photographs and original artwork from the George Rodrigue private archives, State Library Foyer-

12:00 p.m. – Cooking demo with the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, featuring The Pot & the Palette:  100 recipes by Louisiana’s greatest restaurants with artwork by Louisiana’s most talented student artists

This irresistible cookbook, with a Foreword by Chef Emeril Lagasse, spotlights finalists from this year’s Scholarship Art Contest, a partnership between the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts and the Louisiana Restaurant Association.  Learn more and pre-order at this link-


Back to feeling alone...

The only time I feel alone, honestly, is when I leave George for even the smallest errands.  The grocery store, the post office, a pharmacy run.  Those are lonely, empty and, fortunately, temporary places, always complicated by the right thing to do.

“You have a beautiful smile...” 

...noted a kind Rodrigue fan last week, one of fifty or so patient, flexible folks who turned out for Coffee & Conversation at the Jefferson Parish Library in Metairie/New Orleans, where we visited on a facetime screen rather than in person.

The compliment meant a great deal to me, not only because I share our mother's smile with my sister, but also because deep down I worry and, occasionally, panic, as we humans do in such situations.  However, deeper down, the reality is that I’m incredibly happy.  You see, I am never alone... 


...because I have George.  And by God, that’s worth smiling about.

Wendy

-pictured above, Rodrigue Studio, Carmel, California, October 2013-

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Introducing... The Other Side


From the Introduction to The Other Side of the Painting by Wendy Rodrigue, published October 2013 by UL Press-

My mom, an artist, talked me into my first Art History class, a sweeping journey from cave paintings to the start of the Renaissance.  Previously, I avoided it, thinking I preferred self-discovery through my mother’s books.  Yet from day one, I sat lost in another time and world.  I imagined the hand that held the brush, something I still do, even with George’s paintings, even after I watched him apply the paint. 


(pictured, George Rodrigue at his easel, Carmel, California 2013; click photo to enlarge-)

Somehow, imagining the artist puts me in that place, those circumstances, as close as I would ever come to inside his head.  It’s been my obsession as long as I remember- to understand how others think and feel, why they do the things they do, and that somehow it’s all rooted in good.  (…at which point George gives me the Hitler speech).

Simultaneous to early Art History, I took “Shakespeare’s Comedies and Histories,” also in the mid-1980s at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, interweaving in my mind the stories, historical figures, language and art.  In the library I discovered the media room where, in those pre-internet days, I watched the BBC Television Shakespeare, further enlivening not just history, but another’s spirit, whether Shakespeare’s, the character’s, or the actor’s, so that I might satisfy a small bit of my curiosity and learn who they are and how they tick.


(pictured, George Rodrigue at his easel, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1971; click photo to enlarge-)

Maybe it’s empathy, but I think it’s more.  It’s an indefensible obsession, something that drives George crazy, as I chase down a rude waiter not to tell him off or kill him with kindness, the southern way, which was never my way, but rather to honestly find out if we’ve had a misunderstanding, if we offended him, or if a thoughtful word just might help a problem that has nothing to do with us at all.  I lose sleep over these unsolved muddles, replaying conversations and missed opportunities in my mind.

And I believe that all of it makes me capable of better understanding the artist, any artist, so that even a concrete sandwich is someone’s personal expression.  I may not relate to it or want it within my collection, but I respect it as coming from within someone else.  (….again from George the Hitler speech, this time combined with the crappy art speech).

George shakes his head over my elation at the recent find of Richard III’s burial site and skeleton.  I’ve watched the videos repeatedly of the dig and DNA discovery, imagining not that I’m the English King, but that I’m the archaeologist, enchanted by such a find. I imagine that the hand holding the tools is my hand, brushing away the dirt, carefully, revealing delicate finger bones, eye sockets and teeth. 


Suddenly Art History, Shakespeare, History and Science coalesce into one magnificent, meaningful skeletal vignette.  I run first to the internet and, dying of curiosity, to my mother’s books and my college books and to Shakespeare, blending it in my mind as it has in England on a university’s lab table.

I believe in integrating the arts into every aspect of education and as much as possible into daily life.  This is why Louisiana A+ Schools (and similar programs in other states) is so exciting, along with a widespread move towards education awareness in museums.  This is also why 100% of my proceeds from this book, as well as related lectures and exhibitions, benefit the programs of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, including art supplies for schools, college scholarships, and art camps.

I grew up in the artistic, near-theatrical bubble of Mignon, and today, more than twenty years since my last Art History class, I live in the environs of culturally rich New Orleans and naturally beautiful Carmel Valley, California.   Every aspect of my daily life blends with the arts.  My blog, Musings of an Artist’s Wife, allows me to observe and reminisce on paper, with posts lasting indefinitely, unlike a magazine that may end up in the trash or on the bottom of the bathroom pile.

My husband, George Rodrigue, is an artistic embodiment.  For him, as he creates and makes decisions, the art always comes first.  He refers to me often as an artist too. On school visits, however, you won’t find me painting with the kids.  Instead I move through, admiring their work, envying a freedom of line unknown to me.  I paint nothing.  I draw nothing.  Faced with a blank canvas, I feel only anxiety.  Yet George wanted to subtitle this book, The Story of Two Artists, a title so uncomfortable that I barked my rejection without letting him explain.


More than "artist," the word "marketing" chills me, reducing my writing to a sales strategy.  From the beginning, these Musings, whether in my blog, a magazine, or book, are based on one simple concept:  sharing.  Within my essays are my life’s interests.  My hope is that what I find intriguing, most of which involves George Rodrigue, and all of which, thanks to the filter placed on me by my mother years ago, involves the arts, will inspire others, because, ultimately, the joy of my self-expression, whether through writing or public speaking, lies in that challenge.

Wendy

-learn more about The Other Side of the Painting here; order on-line at amazon or visit your favorite independent bookstore; order a special signed and numbered collector's edition at this link-

-pictured above, first book signing for The Other Side of the Painting, October 12, 2013, Carmel, CA; click photo to enlarge-

-first review, October 13, 2013, from the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, linked here-

-for more art and discussion, please join me on facebook-

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