Dec 15, 2013 9:29 PM by Erin Steuber
Cajun culture is mourning the loss of an icon. Painter George Rodrigue died Saturday after a long battle with cancer. Rodrigue is best known for his Blue Dog paintings, which launched the New Iberia native to worldwide fame in the early 90's.
George Rodrigue was a visionary and a symbol of Cajun culture.
"He made us appreciate who we were as Cajuns," said friend Warren Perrin.
"And I think as Cajuns it was at a time we were wondering who are we, what is our culture is all about, is it important?" said Mary Perrin. "He made it important on canvas."
Rodrigue is known the world over for his Blue Dog paintings. But before Blue Dog came along, Rodrigue was immortalizing Louisiana culture on canvas with paintings of landscapes, and family gatherings.
"He understood if you don't understand the past you will never understand the future. When I look at the early paintings that's what I see; An attempt to help us see ourselves, where we've been, and where were going," said Warren.
The 69-year-old has been featured in countless art exhibits worldwide for decades, exposing the world to all things Louisiana.
"We want to say this is the passing of an era with George's death, but it's actually perhaps the beginning of an an era. He started an era of getting Cajun culture out into the world," said Mary.
In 2009, Rodrigue established the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, advocating the importance of art in schools. His foundation has raised more than $3 million and has provided numerous scholarships to young artists.
"It takes a couple of years to believe that these people really are gone and not coming back," said Mary. "But thank goodness we have the artwork that will live on forever."
During his more than 50 year career, Rodrigue has been the subject of twelve books published nationally, and internationally. Next August, the Perrin's will be publishing another book, highlighting Rodrigue's many contributions to Cajun culture.
"Just as our culture gave us Clifton Chenier, who restored pride to the Creole community with his music; Just like Opelousas gave us Paul Prudhomme, who helped define Cajun food in the world," said Warren. "We will view forever George Rodrigue in that category."
"You know painting should be like a signature, every one is different. You can't paint like someone else, because at one point you stop and have to look deep inside and paint what you feel, whatever it is," said Rodrigue in an interview.
Funeral arrangements for Rodrigue have not been set at this time. A spokesperson for the family says details are expected Monday.