Expectations in Baton Rouge

I’ve pondered how to write about this past weekend without turning my blog into a society page of party pics from the Louisiana State University Museum of Art’s opening for “Blue Dogs and Cajuns on the River.”  But it seems there’s no way around it.  Everyone was there, snapping photographs, posing for TV cameras, and eating chicken fingers (thanks to Raising Cane’s).  
George Rodrigue enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience with his portrait subjects, governors and lieutenant governors, all on hand and smiling for the cameras.
(pictured, Marion Edwards, George Rodrigue, Governor Edwin Edwards; Rodrigue painted Governor Edwards’ portrait, on view until 9/23 at the LSU Museum of Art, in 1983; for the history of Rodrigue’s portraits of Louisiana’s Governors, visit here)
Most swooned over Governor Edwin Edwards, recently released from prison and newly married (as of today) to Trina Grimes Scott of Alexandria.  They seem happy, which can’t be easy given the public spotlight, and I wondered especially about her, growing up in small town central Louisiana, facing scrutiny regarding her sincerity and character (and his), as she settles down with a man more than fifty years her senior.
I thought of her also as I tore the extended label from the wall alongside Wendy and Me, our wedding portrait, incorrectly dated 2010.
I’ve come too far to face the naysayers again,” I explained, insisting that the museum correct the date to 1997, restoring my credibility, as I shuddered at a replay of “It will never last.”
When possible, I avoided the crowds and swooned less over Edwards and more over Governor Blanco, bravely fighting eye cancer, venturing out sans makeup, viewing the show through a blur because she wanted to support George Rodrigue, her hometown friend of more than fifty years.
(pictured, George and Wendy Rodrigue, Governor Kathleen Blanco, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, Coach Raymond Blanco; Rodrigue’s portrait of Governor Blanco hangs behind; click photo to enlarge)
I embraced Marion Edwards, in his brother’s shadow once again, and yet devoted to his sibling and to his state.  I watched and admired a man in his eighties cling to good ol’ boy Louisiana while encouraging his wife Penny’s interest in yoga, the arts and the environment through her foundation, Environmentalists Without Borders.
(pictured, Wendy and George Rodrigue with Penny and Marion Edwards; Marion’s portrait as King of the Washington D.C. Mardi Gras, 1984, hangs behind; story and photo here-)
After greeting several thousand visitors over four days in Baton Rouge, I remained nervous even after our return to New Orleans, second-guessing the lectures, meetings, and tours, hoping people felt appreciated, so that they know how much this means not only to George, but also to me, to his sons, and to his friends, all of us proud of his accomplishments and eager to share this forty-five year diverse collection of paintings with others.
(pictured, George Rodrigue shares his early landscapes with Todd Graves of Raising Cane’s, who helped sponsor this exhibition)
I was pleased on opening night to see friends from the New Orleans Museum of Art, staff members Marilyn Dittmann and Gail Asprodites, and NOMA Trustee Brian Schneider, supporting George Rodrigue and this exhibition, inspired by NOMA’s collection of Rodrigue paintings.
In their honor, as with our recent visit to the Alexandria Museum of Art, I focused on paintings from the touring NOMA exhibition, Copley to Warhol, celebrating the museum’s centennial and opening this fall in Baton Rouge, interweaving these great American works with paintings by George Rodrigue as I spoke within the Manship Theatre while George painted alongside me. 
(pictured, Sunday in the Manship Theatre, including the first Blue Dog painting, featured on screen and in the exhibition; click photo to enlarge)
George paused mid-lecture and reminded the audience of his first visit to Baton Rouge, a 1971 exhibition at the Old State Capitol, resulting in a hard lesson and his first newspaper review, a feature in the Sunday Advocate:  “Painter Makes Bayou Country Dreary, Monotonous Place.”  
The audience laughed at the irony, having seen the current exhibition’s far different review, also in the Sunday Advocate:  “Blue Dog Days; George Rodrigue’s iconic canine stars in the LSU Museum of Art.”  Of note is that the paintings featured in that 1971 exhibition and article are on view now in the LSU MOA show.
We look forward to several more rounds of events at the LSU Museum of Art, as well as a fresh start at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport this fall, the last stop on our statewide tour.  
Thank you, Louisiana, for visiting these shows and welcoming us to your cities.  We hope the exhibition, the events, and our appreciation through personal appearances is everything you expected….and more.
For information on upcoming events with George Rodrigue at the LSU Museum of Art, visit here

Also, I hope you enjoy “Remembering Old Biloxi,” a love letter to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, my latest post for Gambit

6 thoughts on “Expectations in Baton Rouge

  1. Wendy, your honesty is as lovely as your beauty. I adore the wedding portrait and applaud you for correcting the error in date. I'm so happy to have come upon your writing. I loved the Swamp Women post. You have a great sense of humor. Forgive my less than savvy Twitter skills. Cheers, Kristin

  2. Thank you Kristin. I was so pleased to see both your comment and 'follow,' especially because I so admire your writings, photography, hats, and more, all inspired by New Orleans.

    Glad you enjoyed 'Swamp Women.' No question, it's a great story. I'm just glad we all lived to tell it!

  3. Wendy, my name is Glenn Currier and I am Gary Reed's cousin. I live in Dallas, TX, but was born in B.R. and my mom was raised on the Bayou Teche – the Durand family. I really enjoyed this blog. Gary has told me often of George's work and although I have seen one of his paintings many times in the background as I Skyped with Gary, the more I see his work, the more I fall in love with it. Thanks for your wonderful blog. I hope to keep up with in the future as I rediscover my Louisiana roots.

  4. Wendy, I am so happy to have found your blog! I am having a great time reading your posts. I work at a school here in Baton Rouge and on Monday night our faculty gathered in the art room and we all painted our own blue dogs! Our students paint blue dogs in third grade as part of our art curriculum, but it was a ton of fun to watch all the teachers try to paint as well as our students paint. I would love for you to see our pictures from that night! Many of us as planning to get down to the Shaw Center this month to see the real blue dogs. Thank you to you and your husband for sharing your art with us here in Baton Rouge.
    Laurie Adams
    St. Luke's Episcopal Day School

  5. Glenn, So great to hear from you. I remember Gary telling me about the Durand family when I wrote about the Cajun Bride from Oak Alley. Thank you so much for writing in!

    And Laurie, I love the image you conjure of the faculty together painting! Thank you for sharing. And I so hope you enjoy the show. George and I will be at the Shaw Center together on August 20 with Chef Paul Prudhomme. Maybe we'll see you there! Thank you for reading and for your comment-


  6. Greetings, Wendy! I've enjoyed your blog in the past and am sorry there have been no new posts since January 2014. I read this particular post before, and see it has been significantly edited since I last read it. Sending you thanks for your work and best wishes on your current projects – Linda C. Foss

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