Thursday, October 9, 2014

Choo Choo Ch’Boogie (An Adventure)

Last year I often found George Rodrigue in his studio in the middle of the night.  He worked for weeks on the painting Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, yet instead of photographing him at his easel, I stood quietly behind and watched. 

(pictured:  Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, 2013 by George Rodrigue, acrylic on canvas, 48x60 inches)


At the time, he struggled with a medication’s side effects that temporarily altered his appearance.  We both believed that the treatment was working and that his health would improve, and capturing that difficult period with pictures seemed inappropriate.*

Interestingly enough, as I prepared to photograph the painting after it was finished, George stopped me:

“No. Wait. I don’t want anyone to see it yet.  I’m saving it.”

For what?

“Mmmmmm.  For Christmas.”

He painted it, he explained, intending a hand-pulled stone lithograph of the image, printed in the old style in Paris, France.  It would be his fourth print using this method, following Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a project for Amuse Bouche Winery in 2008, and Looking for a Beach House and Blue Dog Oak, both released earlier in 2013. (Click the print titles above for images and details of the process).


(pictured:  Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, 2014, Rodrigue estate stamp edition of 275, 30x40 inches, a lithograph printed in Paris, France, based on Rodrigue’s original painting, released this holiday season, one year after he intended; for price and availability, contact Rodrigue Studio or email info@georgerodrigue.com; click photo to enlarge-)

Choo Choo Ch’Boogie is a perfect example of the classic Rodrigue style:  a stylized oak tree dissected by the canvas’s upper edge so that its lower branches form interesting blue shapes above the bushes. The subjects –the Oak Tree, the Blue Dog, and even the handmade carvings- connect a lifetime of painting and interests.

In the mid-1990s we visited the tiny town of Oberammergau, Germany, where George bought the wooden train and conductor, along with several other carved pieces, such as the artist figurine he used in Pop Goes the Revel (below), a 1998 painting and poster for the Red River Revel in Shreveport, Louisiana.


And in 1983, he used wooden figurines from an earlier trip to Germany to create the painting that would become a Festivals Acadiens poster in Lafayette, Louisiana. 

Read the story behind this special painting, along with George’s quotes about his fascination with these figurines, here-


In addition, George held a lifelong obsession with trains.  One year we drove in our truck to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado to ride again the cog train he recalled from a childhood vacation.  We rode the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train two years in a row so that he could experience both the open and closed cars.  And it was by train that we traveled from Munich to Oberammergau to collect the wooden figures he would later use in his paintings.

George painted Choo Choo Ch’Boogie for himself, never intending the painting for sale.  He hung it on the wall of our home, alongside He Stopped Loving Her Today, his tribute to George Jones, also painted last year.


(pictured, George Rodrigue (right) with his childhood friend, Jordan “J.L.” Louviere; Carmel, California, Summer 2013; George wears a t-shirt designed by his dear friend, Lafayette artist Tony Bernard; click photo to enlarge-)

George titled his painting Choo Choo Ch’Boogie based on the popular song.  Although first recorded in 1946 by Louis Jordan, George probably became familiar with “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” in the late 1950s after he got his first transistor radio, about the same time Bill Haley and the Comets recorded their version of the song for their album Rock ‘n’ Roll Stage Show (1956).

His favorite recording in recent years, however, is the one we sang along with as we crossed the country annually in our truck. We grew fond of Asleep at the Wheel in the late 1990s when we toured with the band for Neiman Marcus events in Texas and Hawaii. Listen and sing along here


(pictured:  photograph by George Rodrigue, 2013; see more here; click image to enlarge-)

Just as George intended this print’s release last Christmas, he also intended that I share its history with you at that time.  So this post, like the new print, is a way of following through on that commitment.  Although this return to blogging is short-lived, I’m ever-mindful of George’s legacy, specifically the history behind his style and individual artworks, and I sincerely hope you’ll continue to explore the blog’s hundreds of essays.  The most popular are listed by category down the right side of this page; and the rest are available through the search feature and dated archives, also located to the right.

I also thank you for purchasing The Other Side of the Painting (2013, UL Press).  George and I were unable to tour with the book as we’d planned; and I’m unable to do so without him.  But it is his story, and our story, full of history, nostalgia, quotes, and more.  As fans of his art, I encourage you to explore it if you haven’t already.  100% of the proceeds benefit the arts-in-education programs of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.  More details at this link-



Are you scared? I asked George late one night last December, as we breathed together, my head against his chest.

“No,” he laughed, a mere whisper, yet still in his Snagglepuss-style. “It’s an adventure!” he continued, perhaps thinking of the trains, his eyes wide and bright like an expressive dog’s.

But we take all of our adventures together…

“I know,” he replied, still smiling, even happy, as he wiped my tears.  “But you can’t come on this one, Wendy.  Not yet.”


Wendy

*George’s health did improve for a time, and I photographed him at his easel as he worked on the painting He Stopped Loving Her Today.  Story and images here-

-for questions/comments, contact Rodrigue Studio or email info@georgerodrigue.com-

-Don’t miss the special retrospective exhibitions, including original works and memorabilia from our private collection and George’s archives, on view through January 2015 at Rodrigue Studio New Orleans, Lafayette, and Carmel; more info here-

-With sincere thanks to the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the State Library of Louisiana, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, and the Louisiana Book Festival, which dedicates this year’s festival (Nov. 1, 2014) to George Rodrigue.  Details here-


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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Farewell, For Now


Dear Friends,

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your kind messages, articles and prayers.  I know that many of you are hurting, and I am truly touched not only by your memorial tributes for George, but also that you reached out to me personally.

I also thank you for your generous donations to the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.  Our family is more determined than ever to continue its educational and scholarship programs.

George Rodrigue’s three galleries will reopen this month, beginning with New Orleans on January 16, 2014, followed soon after by Lafayette and Carmel.  Our remarkable, dedicated staff remains intact and, in the midst of their own grief, ready to resume work, sharing George’s art and life with others.

We will begin with exhibitions devoted to George’s history, including photographs, articles, and original artwork from our home, his studio, and his archives.  In addition, we’ll present throughout the coming year several new silkscreen prints, beginning with artwork designed by George in 2013 for this purpose.


(pictured, Mardi Gras 2014, 30x40 inches; a painting by George Rodrigue, which he intended as a silkscreen print; for information on this and other available works, please join our mailing list-)

George’s younger son, Jacques Rodrigue, energized by his youth and his dedication to his dad’s legacy, assumes full-time gallery management, even as he continues his leadership within the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts and Louisiana A+ Schools.  In addition, George’s facebook page remains active thanks to Jacques and his team.

George’s older son, AndrĂ© Rodrigue, remains in Lafayette at Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro and the Blue Dog CafĂ©, where most days you’ll find him relaying history at his increasingly crowded table, or making seafood wontons in the kitchen, both with equal diligence and importance, and both imbued with his natural spirit of kindness and generosity towards friends and strangers alike.


(pictured:  The Rodrigue Family during the exhibition Rodrigue's Louisiana:  Forty Years of Cajuns, Blue Dogs and Beyond Katrina at the New Orleans Museum of Art, 2008-)

And me? I’ll remain involved peripherally for now, advising quietly as needed, while otherwise allowing these capable young men to lead the galleries and foundation in new directions.  I know that they, as much as me, remain, above all else, mindful of the awesome responsibility of their father’s legacy.

At the top of this letter, I thanked you for your messages.  However, I must be honest.  On my computer sits more than one thousand unread emails.  My telephone voicemail is full.  The newspaper and magazine articles remain unread.  And your cards and packages sit unopened, stacked high in our foyer.  I know that they are there.  I know that you are there.  But I can’t face any of it at this time.  Please know that I will return to the telephone and mail on the days when I most need to hear your voice and read your words.  And in the meantime, I'm comforted just knowing that your messages await.  

I hope you’ll forgive me not only for the confession above, but also because I must retreat from the public life and, to a great degree, from our private lives, for now.  To those of you who might worry, please know that I am not alone, and that I will be Somewhere. 

Finally, until and if I’m capable of writing again, I share with you, my gentle readers, George’s last words...


"You're my Wendy."

Take care of yourselves.  Take care of your loved ones.

Wendy Wolfe Rodrigue

-I leave you with hundreds of on-line essays at Musings of an Artist’s Wife, dedicated to George, along with a new book, The Other Side of the Painting, chronicling his history, his art, and our lives together.  100% of these proceeds benefit the arts in education programs of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.  More info at this link:  

http://georgerodrigue.com/the-other-side-of-the-painting/






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