Rodrigue’s ‘mind’ was study’s focus
November 2, 2003
LAFAYETTE — Subrata Dasgupta wanted to know more than what was on artist George Rodrigue’s mind. He wanted to find out how his mind worked.
Dasgupta has spent the last two years studying George Rodrigue, a world-renowned painter known for his paintings of Cajuns and the ubiquitous blue dog.
Dasgupta is the director of the Institute of Cognitive Science at UL Lafayette, a department that studies the mind. Dasgupta said the department encompasses several disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, advanced computer science and biology.
On Monday, Dasgupta will give a lecture at the university titled “Pictures of an Artist’s Mind: Understanding George Rodrigue.”
Dasgupta said he chose Rodrigue because he wanted to work with a living artist, not only to interview him but also to view him at work. It just so happened that Dasgupta told a friend of his idea who was also friends with Rodrigue. Dasgupta said he realized that lay people wondered, “What’s all this blue dog about? Why does he go back again and again to this?”
Rodrigue said that the blue dog phenomenon was never intentional. In fact, the first time the image appeared was in a book of ghost stories in 1984, and the dog was supposed to represent a loup garou, the werewolf of Cajun folklore.
“To me,” Rodrigue said, “it represented a mean wolf-like dog that lived in a cane field.”
Rodrigue said that at an art show in Los Angeles where he had five different representations of the loup garou incorporated into portraits of Cajun people, “The Blue Dog became the hit of the show.”
“All of a sudden, I hear people talking about The Blue Dog. The question was, ‘Who is this dog?’ I explained that it was loosely based on my deceased dog, Tiffany, and that I had incorporated all the dogs throughout my life.”
But what Rodrigue had intended to be the loup garou — and others perceived as The Blue Dog — Dasgupta said has a completely different meaning for Rodrigue himself. Dasgupta said, “The Blue Dog represents Rodrigue as he sees the world. In a certain sense, it liberated him from his Cajun background so he could go anywhere in the world,” Dasgupta said.
Rodrigue agreed with Dasgupta’s assessment of The Blue Dog.
“It can travel through space and time,” he said. “It freed me from continuing to paint the Cajuns. It opened me up artistically in a huge way. I lost the boundaries of being in Louisiana, and it contained a universal image. It was no longer loup garou.”
Want to go?
Subrata Dasgupta will discuss the creative process of George Rodrigue at 7 p.m. on Monday in Fletcher Hall, room 134, on the UL Lafayette campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.