It was 2006 when I first met George Rodrigue and his wife Wendy to discuss a forthcoming museum retrospective of his work. George was smiling from the moment he walked in the door, and I fondly recall his thick Cajun accent and hard-to-forget laugh. The couple was charming and down-to-earth, without the slightest hint of arrogance about them, despite George’s success.
It was a privilege to have been invited into their home in New Orleans, providing me a glimpse into the world of George Rodrigue.
I was mesmerized by the incredible paintings on their walls, many of which I had never seen, and different from the works owned by collectors and available to the public — including an early abstract figural painting, a pair of Cajun portraits and an intoxicating large-scale painting that incorporated the Blue Dog with butterfly wings, which dominated the wall over their sofa. As I enjoyed a glass of wine (and a surreal moment) under this painting, I realized the significance; all these works were connected. They represented different aspects of his life, different emotions, and different phases of his journey. Their home was their sanctuary, and having chosen these works to surround them was a very personal statement as to what was significant in his life — their life.
It was years later that I went to their home in Carmel Valley, California, a space that was entirely planned by George, filled with paintings uniquely created for that location. While standing in that high-ceilinged home among those unique pieces, I was very much aware I had ventured into a distinctly private and personal side of this very public figure.
When Wendy suggested that she lend these works from their homes in Carmel and New Orleans for the exhibition at MONA, I realized we had hit on something very special. This museum — very open, contemporary and somewhat edgy, was the perfect venue to showcase those works that Rodrigue painted to complement his very similar environments. I hope the works filling these galleries allow visitors a glance into the artist’s heart, revealing his passion, and providing a better understanding of the importance of an artist creating for himself.