Staff Picks: George Rodrigue's Cajun Landscape

Time is running out to pick your favorite painting on view before George Rodrigue: The Cajun Landscape closes on February 10, 2019. Here are a few from our staff.

George Rodrigue (American, 1944–2013),  Winning Cakes,  1978, oil on canvas, Courtesy of Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, University of Louisiana Lafayette

George Rodrigue (American, 1944–2013), Winning Cakes, 1978, oil on canvas, Courtesy of Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, University of Louisiana Lafayette

“Most of the paintings in George Rodrigue: The Cajun Landscape utilize the same natural color palette of greens, browns and yellows. This prevalence of muted colors makes it delightful when little pops of bright color appear in the paintings, and this is what makes Winning Cakes my favorite painting in the show. The red, pink, turquoise and neon yellow details in the ribbons and the cakes the winners proudly hold draw the viewer’s attention. I like to think that Rodrigue based this painting on a favorite local event, and that somewhere in the world there is a recipe for a neon yellow cake!”

—Elizabeth Caroscio, Assistant Registrar

George Rodrigue (American, 1944–2013),  The Coulee,  c. 1969-1970, oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Haynie Family Collection

George Rodrigue (American, 1944–2013), The Coulee, c. 1969-1970, oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Haynie Family Collection

“A decade after this painting was complete, my father, a Texas oilman, packed up his large family and moved to Lafayette (across the street was Scott) out in the country. He worked daily in New Iberia. It was winter, December 1980. It was freezing. I’d only been through Louisiana once as a much smaller child for my oldest brother’s wedding in Venice. The bridge over the Atchafalaya had not even been completed. I had memories and images of shadowy bayous still etched into my 10-year-old mind. I had cried at the loss of Corpus Christi, TX and the beach. Louisiana was a very foreign place. Next to the new house was a giant coulee. I had never heard the term until 1980. So, dropped into the Acadiana landscape in the countryside of Lafayette we learned to appreciate outdoor life. Coulees had secrets; they contained murky water, snakes, nutria rats, bugs, and blackberries on the banks—if you were brave enough. That bleak darkness did eventually open into the lighter sky, as Rodrigue depicts, and summer quickly climbed over spring and so our humid lives in Louisiana began.”

“When I look at this painting with its solid oaks and meandering coulee, it brings back fond memories of trying to fit into Acadian culture. My father soon had a good gumbo recipe and drove us to every small historical spot in Southwest Louisiana. We were surprised to find several Rodrigue paintings casually hung in the Vermillion Parish Courthouse in Abbeville very similar to this one. Even in that cold winter the Acadian people opened their homes to us with food, drink, and music. The landscape was dark but enchanted. When I say ‘coulee’ out of habit, people ask me what I’m talking about. ‘A DITCH,’ I blithely reply. But I know the secrets that Coulees keep. Southwest Louisiana has a complex relationship with the land and water.  

I met George Rodrigue in person at LSU MOA July 27, 2011. I was fortunate to hear him talk about the landscape and Acadian culture. The Coulee makes me homesick. It encapsulates all those memories of mine that Rodrigue knew innately. This painting makes me miss my Mom and Dad and childhood growing up in Acadiana with my family and best friend, my twin sister. Thank you, George.”

—Nedra Hains, Director of Development and External Affairs

George Rodrigue (American, 1944–2013),  John Courregé’s Pirogue,  1973, oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Kenny Begneaud Family

George Rodrigue (American, 1944–2013), John Courregé’s Pirogue, 1973, oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Kenny Begneaud Family

“As intricate as it may seem, my eye is always drawn to the hem of the far left female figure's skirt in John Courrege's Pirogue. The darker, snaking line marking the ruffles of the character's skirt is vague yet perfectly evocative of a full skirt's movements and folds.”

—Olivia Johnson, curatorial assistant