Riding to New Orleans: An Artist’s Journey

For George, in honor of his new gallery and a dream fulfilled-

In 1970 I bought a ticket on a train

To New Orleans for my first art show, Oak Trees.

I painted Cajuns, not Creoles, and then Blue Dogs and Hurricanes

I built sculptures and changed directions, painting Tee Coons* and Jolies

I’m an artist, a Cajun from southwest Louisiana

With two brushes and a canvas my journey began

Forty years later I remain a native son,

And I’m still painting pictures, my life’s work never done

I traveled through landscapes,

Past bayous, cabins, and swamps

I encountered Cajun figures, ghosts glowing white,

A dying culture of musicians, politicians, and legendary types

The banks of the Bayou Teche is my home

A French history detoured through Canada, but not alone.

Four Rodrigue brothers traveled long before me

Riding their will, not the rails, in search of a new identity

And then Longfellow’s heroine followed her heart

To the land of Tabasco and sugar cane, many miles from Beauport

No train for her either, just her weary legs to find

A man she called Gabriel and an oak, Evangeline

It was 1964 when I took a train to L.A.

Two hundred years after the Acadians made their way.

In California at art school I honed my skills

The start of a legacy I still work to fulfill

A place like no other, Louisiana’s small skies and black trees

Lured me back on that train, my wandering spirit now appeased.

After the big skies of Texas, I saw my state anew

Spiritual fodder for a childhood legend,

Le loup-garou

People laughed and some smirked at my attempt to confuse

“But I rode a train,” I said, “and it lead me to the Blues.”

This dog hooked me, and I’m still on that ride

Not just through Louisiana, but around the world and flying high.


pictured above, George Rodrigue working on a mixed media on chrome, 2009

*Tee Coon deserves his own post (yet to come). He was George’s good friend, a real Cajun character, and the janitor at Catholic High in New Iberia, Louisiana. George painted him dozens of times over the years.

Coming this weekend: “Broussard’s Barber Shop” and “The Ragin’ Cajun”