Butterflies Are Free

When I asked George Rodrigue this week for the title of his newest silkscreen print, he said,

“Did we have one called ‘Butterflies Are Free’?”

Not only do we have one, I reminded him, (it was his first piece with butterflies, featured later in this post), but also he suggests that same title for every similar painting since.

Butterflies, or more likely, the idea of sprouting wings and traveling freely between flowers and fence posts, recur as a theme often in George’s work since the mid-1990s.

(pictured, Butterfly Blues, 2011, a silkscreen design completed this week, 24×18 inches, edition of 350)

This interest in butterflies began with several projects for the department store Neiman Marcus, which commissioned three paintings as catalogue covers, all featuring their winged mascot. Butterflies are Free (below), painted in 1996, graced the cover of their men’s catalogue. The butterfly leaves the rug and flies alongside the Blue Dog.

Hawaiian Blues (below) celebrated the 1998 opening of Neiman Marcus’s Honolulu location at Ala Moana Center. The butterflies travel across the painting, or rather across the spine of the catalogue, and form a lei around the dog’s neck. As with the figures in his Cajun paintings and the Louisiana landscape, both the dog and the butterflies appear to be cut out and pasted onto the atmosphere of an old Hawaiian postcard.

In The Millennium (1999, below), an Egyptian holds a star, inspiring the spiritual birth of creativity, enduring through the Dark Ages as symbolized by a Viking ship, and flying as the Blue Dog, born in Louisiana from a mass of butterflies, into the 21st century.

(Note: for a detailed history of the three Neiman Marcus paintings, along with Rodrigue’s relationship with the department store, visit the post “Blue Dog Man: 1996-1999”)

George’s overt masculinity, his deep voice, fast cars and cowboy boots (reminding me of that line from a Zorro movie, “He was very vigorous, father”), belie this interest in a delicate, near-floating insect flitting between blossoms on our courtyard patio.

(Happy Birthday, George! March 13th)

This is especially true with regards to the Blue Dog Man, the notion of George himself as the Blue Dog, commenting through his paintings on life today. Rather than sitting before the oak tree like Evangeline, the dog, carried by butterfly wings, flies within the Louisiana landscape, transforming a “dreary, monotonous place,” as described by his early critics, into the colorful bayou country of George’s imagination.

(pictured above, all 2008, acrylic on canvas: Night Light Flight; Breaux Bridge Shoe-fly; Don’t Bug Me at Night)

Never is this truer than in his most recent silkscreen, Butterfly Blues, pictured at the top of this post. Even sans wings, the dog veritably flies through George’s Oz-like Acadiana.


Pictured above, our living room, New Orleans. Notice on the side table, George’s dime store version of Puppy, which he painted blue, alongside Jeff Koons’ famous ceramic sculpture

I hope you also enjoy “Avoiding Politics: a Series of Vignettes Shape a Political Agnostic,” featuring Rodrigue’s paintings, photographs, and commentary in this week’s Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans

6 thoughts on “Butterflies Are Free

  1. Beautiful, pieces of work! I didn't realize that George was so into "butterflies". I really enjoyed you tying everything together.

    You forgot to mention about George's adorable laugh!

    Happy Birthday, George! May you have a blessed year!!!

  2. Very nice Wendy, enjoyed reading this. Love those butterflies. Please tell George Happy Birthday. Take him out to dinner. I'm sure he has been working hard!!

  3. Happy Birthday to George. The butterfly creations are beautiful. Love butterflies. that is why I plant so many flowers and plants in my garden for them to feed and lay their eggs. Really love the Hawaiian postcard look. My preschool class loved his book "Are You Blue Dog's Friend". Then they created their own Blue Dog Friend and decorated them for Mardi Gras. Love your education site.

  4. I am lucky to have the Hawaiian Blues Neiman Marcus shopping bag, which George signed for me at the Honolulu store opening. It is beautifully framed & hanging in my office. It makes me happy!

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