I am Not the Artist.

Over the years countless people approached George Rodrigue with ideas for paintings.  They didn’t understand that George was original.  He was authentic.
“They all think they’re the artist,” he would say, shaking his head over the umpteenth person to “have a great idea,” insisting that he paint the Blue Dog with St. Louis Cathedral or the Eiffel Tower…. or on the 18thhole at Pebble Beach.
“I don’t even play golf!” he would say, to which they usually replied,
“….but you’d make a ton of money!”
(pictured:  Don’t Slow Me Down, 2013 by George Rodrigue; the last silkscreen design he completed ….and never printed; click photo to enlarge-)
In the first few weeks after losing George, I received three pieces of advice* that I return to repeatedly:
Stay close to the floor, messaged a teacher.  And on days when I can’t lift my head, I move slowly from the bed to my mat, sometimes, especially in those first few months, as late as five or six in the evening, and begin my practice.  And afterwards, always, I feel better.

(pictured, Death Valley, March 2015; click photo to enlarge-)

Relax the struggle, wrote a mentor.  And on days when the enormity of my loss crashes into the enormity of my responsibility, I remember that I am human.  And afterwards, always, I feel better.

(pictured, Sunshine is Mine, October 2012 by George Rodrigue, 16×20, acrylic on canvas; learn more-)

Don’t do anything you don’t want to do, stressed one of George’s doctors in a voicemail.  And on days when others stress how I should conduct my life, I give myself permission to follow my heart instead.  And afterwards, always, I feel better.

(pictured, Turquoise Hill in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2016; click photo to enlarge-)

Looking back, the advice was there all along from George, with himself as the example— a grounded and down-to-earth person, immune to criticism, and true to his own vision within his art and life.

(pictured, Rodrigue & Camera – a file from George’s computer; click to enlarge-)

We all recognize that no two people are alike, and yet why is it that we presume to understand aspects of the human condition as though they are universal standards?  Loss is different for everyone, no matter how familiar the circumstances may seem, and no matter what the outward perception. 

Facing others means dreading the question, How are you?  The answer is impossible, because the pain is unique and personal (not unlike George’s paintings), and the sense of loneliness and exposure and confusion undulates, so that this thing called grief becomes more of an appendage than a process.

“Do not fear, there is always wine
if you are thirsty for love.
Do not fear, there is always water
if your lips are parched.
Do not fear your ruin, inside you
there is a treasure.
Open your eyes, for this world
is only a dream.”
-Rumi (1207-1273)
“Stop this exploitation of your late husband!!!” demanded a Lafayette, Louisiana socialite recently, after my photo (below) appeared on facebook with a Rodrigue collector.

She later deleted the comment; yet this hometown sting, combined with its multiple exclamation points and my own relentless second-guessing of my actions, burned in my memory.  What if I’ve embarrassed George in his beloved Cajun community?  It was only the second time I’ve attended a Rodrigue Gallery function since October 2013 —-when George and I released The Other Side of the Painting together in Carmel, California —-and yet already I roused judgment and ire.

Relax the struggle.

(pictured:  with Lucy Trebotich, who graciously loaned her painting Santa Fe Guitar (1987) to the exhibition “Rodrigue:  Celebrating Music”; New Orleans, February 2016; learn more-)

“Protect yourself,” George often said to me, followed closely by “When are you going to realize who you are?”

It’s ironic that it took losing him for those words to sink in.


*for R.E. ….how did we get here?

-how long will it be?… I often wonder…before I feel comfortable enough to cross my legs, or even my feet, in the moment

-With a return to public life comes a full plate of events.  No, I am not the artist.  But hopefully, in helping others to better understand and appreciate George’s life and art, I’m moving in the right direction in preserving and enhancing his legacy.  Proceeds from all events benefit the arts in education programs of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.  Please join me for the following:

April 15th:  “A Conversation with Wendy Rodrigue” including a book signing and reading from The Other Side of the Painting(UL Press, 2013);  The Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana 6:00 p.m.  Free.  Details here

April 16th:  The 7th annual George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts Scholarship Luncheon at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, 11:30 a.m.  Tickets $50.  Details here

May 19th:  “Rodrigue:  The Spirit of the Game” opens at Rodrigue Studio, New Orleans.  6-8 p.m.  Details posting soon here

June 3rd and 4th:  “Weekend with Wendy” including children’s events, lectures, and book signings; The Longview Museum of Fine Arts in Longview, Texas.  Free.  Details here