Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, a Painting for Himself

Nov 6, 2023: George Rodrigue (1944-2013) held a lifelong obsession with trains.  In his last years, he and Wendy drove their truck to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado to ride again the cog train he recalled from a childhood vacation.  They rode the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train two years in a row so that Rodrigue could experience both the open and closed cars.  And it was by train that they traveled from Munich to Oberammergau to collect the wooden figures he would later use in this painting.

Rodrigue also held a lifelong obsession with the journey of human existence, with questions like Where did we come from? and Where are we going? He tapped into his childhood often because he understood that Baby George still lived inside him, playing with toy trains and dreaming of the next adventure.

Amongst his last paintings, George Rodrigue painted Choo Choo Ch’Boogie in 2013 for himself, never intending the painting for sale.  He hung it on the wall of his and Wendy’s Carmel, California home, unframed, where it remained until he died.

Years later, it was Marty Horowitz of Goldleaf Framemakers in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who conceived of this handmade frame at Wendy’s request.

—text from the exhibition “George Rodrigue: Painting for Myself” on view through January 2, 2024 at the Museum of New Art in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, followed by the Bayou Teche Museum in Rodrigue’s hometown of New Iberia, Louisiana, coinciding with the artist’s 80th birthday, March 13, 2024.

This exhibition is made possible because of generous support from Avery Insurance and the Life & Legacy Foundation.

Filmed by Douglas Magnus as part of a series of Video Narratives for the Life & Legacy Foundation and Art Tour.