My Favorite Painting

The Loup-garou is my favorite painting.
I first saw it on a Sunday afternoon in 1991, a day that changed my life. I walked into the Rodrigue Gallery in the French Quarter to visit a friend, the gallery manager. At the time, I worked at Ann Taylor while attending graduate school at Tulane University, and I worried as my college job morphed into my future. If I didn’t take a chance, I might lose the art world.
That day I sought advice regarding museum work. My undergraduate studies at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas focused on the Northern Renaissance.  Contemporary art and Modern art were far from my mind.  
In 1991 I knew nothing of George Rodrigue or his art.  I’d never been to Lafayette nor visited his gallery in the French Quarter. 
The minute I stepped through the Rodrigue Gallery door, I stared at the far wall and a 6×4 foot canvas. Without thinking, I touched it. I was stunned by the power in this painting, by the idea of some hand applying and blending the goopy paint just so, by an artist making something all about, and yet not the least bit about, one strong shape. 
I learned later that this was George’s first painting of the Blue Dog by itself, removed from the Cajun background. I didn’t even recognize it as a dog.
“What is it?” I whispered to my friend.
“It’s the Blue Dog,” he said.
Within a week I left both Ann Taylor and graduate school and worked full-time with the Loup-garou in the Rodrigue Gallery. 
Within six months I moved to California, my first visit to the West coast, where I spent six years at the Rodrigue Gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea.  I called my friend,
“Please send me the Loup-garou.
“No way. Too expensive to ship.”
I asked until he agreed, and the Loup-garou hung by my desk for two years until my co-worker Sandra sold the painting.  At $50,000 it was our biggest sale to date in Carmel.
The gallery’s success, however, did not assuage my disappointment. In 1997 when George Rodrigue and I married, I still talked about it.
In 2002 George shocked me with the Loup-garou, returned by some negotiation still unknown to me, and the painting hung in our home for the first time.
As I write this, I exchange a stare with my painting.  I’m as confused and mesmerized and weak-kneed as I was twenty years ago.
Great paintings take on a life of their own, beyond the artist’s intent or the owner’s collection, or even (perhaps George’s most frustrating battle) some collective assumption about them. The greatest works of art pose questions long after the artist’s death. Consider Degas’ Yellow BallerinaPicasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, and Monet’s Water Lilies.  
The reason the Blue Dog lasts is not because it’s a dog. I like dogs, but I’ve never had one, nor am I a ‘dog person.’ The Blue Dog lasts because it’s painted and designed well, because it’s rooted in twenty-five years of Cajun paintings, because no matter how long we wait, it won’t explain itself, and because, more than anything else, it is painted by George Rodrigue.
I’m not talking about George’s appealing manner or ‘marketing genius’ (a naysayer’s backhanded compliment), nor his artistic intent or commentary.  I’m talking about something far more complex and unique to him: his style.

-also this week, experience the insanity of  Swamp Women,” in my latest story for Gambit Weekly-

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One thought on “My Favorite Painting

  1. Wendy, you are right about George and his style. Thank you as always for the narrative. Keith

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