[caption id="attachment_26" align="alignnone" width="197"] "Starry, Starry Nights"[/caption]Iconic Cajun Artist, George Rodrigue, passed away last Saturday at the age of 69. The painter was diagnosed in 2012 with stage four lung cancer which spread throughout his body. The artist attributed his cancer to breathing toxic varnishes which he sprayed on canvases in unventilated spaces early in his career.
Rodrigue was born and raised in New Iberia, Louisiana and began painting in the third grade while he was bedridden with polio. He studied art at the University of Louisiana and later at the Art Center of California in Pasadena before returning to Louisiana to pursue his career. Early on Rodrigue painted images of Louisiana landscapes and family gatherings, but then, early in the 1990’s, he was commissioned to create a work inspired by Cajun ghost stories. He remembered that as a child his mother would warn him that if he wasn’t good the loup-garou (Cajun werewolf dog) would come and get him! From this childhood memory he created “Blue Dog”, the image that he is best known for and that would eventually catapult him to world-wide notoriety. Rodrigue was generous with good fortune and established a foundation and sponsored scholarships.
In a USA Today interview published in 2000 Rodrigue talked about his muse this way:
"I'm expressing the feelings of mankind today through the Blue Dog. The dog is always having problems of the heart, of growing up, the problems of life. The dog looks at us and asks, 'Why am I here? What am I doing? Where am I going?'" Rodrigue said. "Those are the same questions we ask ourselves. People look at the paintings, and the paintings speak back to them."
Rodrigue will be buried Thursday after a service at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. The art world will miss him and the greater world will miss his humanitarian efforts but his vibrant, expressive work will live on forever.