George often noted that had he painted the Blue Dog as a young man, he would have ruined it. It was because he first painted twenty-five years of Cajuns that he recognized the personal value in ensuring, as much as possible, that the Blue Dog remained his, even as it was adopted in the hearts of millions of people, each interpreting the imagery and symbolism in their own way.
Because I love both George and his work, I feel an urgency to describe his art less in terms of the dog, or even the oak and Cajuns, then in terms of the man himself. It was while working in his Carmel, California gallery that I saw the public shift in perception, practically overnight, following a 1992 front page article, “How Many Dogs Can Fetch Money?” in The Wall Street Journal, a worldwide advertising campaign for Absolut Vodka, and a runaway bestselling art book.
“What’s with this dog?” became “Hey, I know that dog!”
The artist is George Rodrigue, I added, and still do, every time.
The collection of paintings and sculptures in this exhibition involves none of that. Instead, these reflect George’s statement in spite of his success. He painted some to complement our home and some to bring happiness within children’s hospitals. But more often, he painted without any notion of a painting’s destiny. He formed exciting ideas, and he created.
It’s as simple or complicated as that.
The projects consumed him, while confounding his collectors, who could not understand why he would create something and not let them buy it. “Just paint another one!” they insisted. But it wasn’t like that. Not with these.
Throughout, the paintings reflect George’s feelings. Perhaps surprisingly, the brightest and most joyful canvases are those he painted during the last year of his life. In May of 2012, George was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, thought to have been brought on by years of using spray varnish in unventilated spaces.
“I’m recycling my life,” he said. “I didn’t expect this new experience, and we should make as much of it as we can; because we’re all living in the moment, whatever that may be.” -from my journal, 2012
Wendy Rodrigue Magnus