“How long were we gone?” asked George Rodrigue. “A week?”
“More like 48 hours,” I replied…
…as we recalled our visit to Little Rock, Arkansas last weekend, where we raised funds and awareness for arts education through events for the Thea Foundation and the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.
Between us, in just two days, we flew to Little Rock and back, where we presented three lectures, attended two cocktail parties, painted (in George’s case) and auctioned off an original painting, judged an art contest, toured the Thea Foundation offices and the neighboring Argenta Community Theatre, shared meals with clients, foundation supporters, and community leaders, visited a private art collection, and toured the Clinton Library.
“Did you forget to tell me that you’re running for office?” I asked George earlier this week, as I organized my list of thank-you notes.
(pictured, a painting demonstration and lecture in the Clinton Library, Little Rock)
Upon our return, we drove two hours west for the day, where I spoke to an audience of sixty women — university professors, philanthropists, and friends — about my search for identity as the wife of a famous artist. Presenting at the University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for the Women of Vision Lecture Series, we raised funds for the UL Foundation, as I explained my life’s journey through the art of Egypt, Austria, my mother, and of course George Rodrigue.* For some reason I’ll likely never understand, my audience hung in there as I spouted on, knowing full well that every woman in the room has a life just as (if not more) interesting.
(pictured, Selket guarding King Tut’s tomb)
“But you’ve got to go to my lecture,” I pleaded with George that morning. “I’m a bit nervous about this one, and I need your support.”
Instead he spent the day signing his new silkscreen prints, claiming,
“If I’m there, Wendy, everyone will want to talk to me.”
Just as I understand better after visiting Arkansas how the city of Little Rock must have flipped when Bill Clinton became President of the United States, I can see how the Lafayette ladies would have flipped over George’s presence. I too still swoon at times when he talks about his art with that Cajun drawl. (You should be wrinkling your nose at the sap here, so go right ahead; nevertheless, it’s true).
Instead George spent the day only a few blocks from my speech, at his warehouse signing his newest silkscreen prints titled, appropriately, I’m the Real Thing. (for the story behind this coke machine visit here)
Yesterday we left our house in New Orleans early for another marathon day, this time in Lake Charles, Louisiana, sixty miles west of Lafayette, and more than three hours drive from our house.
While there, we hosted an informational luncheon for forty people to raise funds and awareness for the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts (GRFA). We followed with a lecture and painting demonstration for more than four hundred people in the historic 1912 auditorium of the Central School Arts and Humanities Center, where George painted a Blue Dog for the crowd while I shared stories from his art and life.
(For a detailed history of this painting visit here.)
(pictured above, Jacques Rodrigue and George Rodrigue at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, November 11, 2010)
It wasn’t until we reached our garage at 1:00 a.m. that we realized (and no longer cared) that we’d forgotten to eat.
At day’s end we had a key to the city of Lake Charles (courtesy of the mayor), money for scholarships and student art supplies (through GRFA), several pieces of Blue Dog cake (courtesy of the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana and especially the marvelous Lake Charles bakery artist, Kelly Lowe of the Stacked Cake Company), an invitation to return in January for the opening of a museum exhibition of George’s work (courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art), and fond memories and stories of the 1984 ballet, Ghosts of Rodrigue, based on his Cajun paintings.
“It’s weird. I’m startin’ to feel like Marilyn Monroe,” said George, as he washed his face.
“Say what?” I turned with surprise from the side of the bathtub, where I sat rubbing my feet. “Used? Depressed? Blonde?”
“It’s like I’m two different people. I can’t believe they’re talking that way about me. I can’t believe all of those people showed up because of me.”
I looked at him, not knowing what to say. After all, in many ways this is a typical week.
“Why two people?” I asked. “Why Marilyn?” (Why not John Wayne or Johnny Cash?, I thought…)
“Well,” he mumbled through the toothpaste, “They all make a fuss over me, and then I come home and everything’s normal, like I’m a regular guy.”
You’re delirious. Go to bed.