Thursday, April 18, 2013

30 Days of Why I Love New Orleans - Day 19

Blue Dog—Red Dog, Yellow Dog—and Art!

          Every so often a musician, an artist, a filmmaker, or writer creates a piece that just has a spark of something special, magical perhaps. Sometimes, those creators touch an age
group, the angst in life, the feel of true romance, the pain of loss or war . . . or even a smile.
                It’s always hard to explain. And any art form is subjective. My cup of tea is your poison, or your raw onions are delicious to me.
                I happen to be in love with Blue Dog—and I’m certainly not alone. Blue Dog has become iconic in New Orleans.
                With good reason.
                Artist George Rodrique was born in New Iberia (where he also has a studio) in 1944. He studied in Louisiana and in Los Angeles, learning the nuts and bolts of drawing and painting. Since my artistic talent is somewhere between and nil and none, I don’t know a great deal about shade and shadow, brush strokes, or the many things art connoisseurs do know. But I know what I like—and I know that it makes me smile.
                My sister, Vickie, had a lot to do with
introducing me to the Blue Dog. Vickie and her friends at Delta Airlines religiously attended Jazz Fest and she was the first to fall in love with the Blue Dog. She bought a print at the Rodrique Studio on Royal Street. There’s just something in the dog’s expression that’s wonderful.
                Rodrique made use of his home in his art; he depicted Cajun life and history. He’s well known for creating atmosphere and a certain kind of spell. He has created images that incorporate the past and the present with ghosts appearing in the landscape he knows so well.
                Blue Dog began as a ghost dog in a grayish blue color with red eyes. But Blue Dog was a ghost—or modeled after Rodrique’s Tiffany, a pet he had lost long before painting his first image.
                Now, you don’t have to go to the studio to see Blue Dog; Blue Dog is iconic. Paintings and prints featuring Blue Dog can be seen in restaurants and hotels and other venues throughout the city. But if you discover that you love Blue Dog and have to get a little closer, you’ll have to
stop by the studio. It’s easy to do. You’ll now find it on Royal Street at number 730. You can also head to Lafayette, Louisiana, or Carmel, California.
                Blue Dog is featured in books and has been pictured with many famous people in the arts, sports, and politics. My one and only foray into buying real art was a small signed print for my sister, and since then, every trip I take means a stop by at the studio. Just as Twilight touched upon teen-aged angst and falling in love, just as the Mona Lisa follows others, and just as the song “Memories” reminds us all of what being young and filled with hope was like, Blue Dog touches something in us. Blue Dog can bring a smile, maybe remind us of a beloved pet long gone, or just brighten the day somehow.
                Now, of course, I’ve gone on and on about Blue Dog. All of Rodrique’s art is special, haunting, intriguing, and touched with something very real—even when reality is in the form of ghosts.
                I have never met George Rodrique—I’m willing to bet I’d really like the man! There’s just something about that dog . . . . (Not to take a thing away from his other wonderful work!)
                Beyond Blue Dog and Rodrique, New Orleans remains a mecca for all kinds of art.
The new and upcoming artists can easily be found on Jackson Square. You’ll find all forms—sketches, paintings, mixed media, caricature artists and more. You can find images that capture the magic of the city, the elegance, the age, the decay, the restoration. A friend told me that an artist is pulled to the city—just like a writer. While writers use words to relay the heart and essence and atmosphere of the city, artists long to do so with their pens, pencils, and paints.
                Royal Street is known for its art shops but there are many scattered throughout the French Quarter and the city. You’ll find estate paintings, older pieces, and works by well-known masters. If contemporary art is special to you, you may want to take a trip to Julia Street in the Warehouse/Art District but if you’re fascinated by a stunning trip from gallery to gallery, just take a look at the many
places on Royal. They are heavily conglomerated between the 300 and 800 blocks which allows for a really charming walk. Just a few to take in include Joe Dunn Arts, Mann Gallery, Gallerie Gauche Rive, Gallerie d’Art Francais, Elliott Gallery, and Kako Gallery. That’s naming just a few!
                As you pass fantastic street performers, you’ll also see fantastic artists along the way. It’s a way of life in New Orleans; it’s everywhere!
                One more particular favorite of mine is the Craig Tracy Gallery, 827 Royal
Street. I’ve never seen such amazing work. The artist—Craig Tracy, born and bred in NOLA--paints on bodies. In the most beguiling manner, he uses the human form along with his brush and imagination to create some of the most unusual and visually stunning pieces I’ve ever seen. You’ll be staring at an amazing leopard and realize that it’s perfectly painted on a human body. Obviously, what you see on the walls is worracyk in a mixed media—but I promise you, you’ll be amazed. You can look up some of the incredible work at
                As with restaurants, I couldn’t begin to describe all of the art and artists in New Orleans. You can buy the acknowledged sublime, or you can find your own treasure. I have dozens of friends who have purchased a piece from a budding artist in Jackson Square—only to discover years later that their piece is worth tons and the artist they chatted with in the shade of the cathedral is now on the touted list!
                No matter what your pleasure, metal work, glass, paintings, sketches . . . you’ll find something that amazes you, and something that will allow you to bring back a little bit of New Orleans.

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