George Rodrigue was born and raised in New Iberia, Louisiana, the heart of Cajun country. For more than forty years, his work has remained rooted in the familiar milieu of home.
During the mid-1960s following six semesters at the University of Southwest Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) Rodrigue attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, where the graduate school’s curriculum provided him a nuts-and-bolts foundation in drawing and painting. Outside of art school, L.A. was full of Pop and Abstract influences, and it was an exciting time for a young artist in America. However, much like today critical success depended on one’s New York visibility. Nevertheless, Rodrigue returned to Louisiana. He would use symbols not only to capture the essence of his personal world, but also to express his spiritual and cultural ideas as they pertained to Louisiana and the South, and to America. Rodrigue decided that he would not be a Louisiana artist in New York City; instead he would return home with his new knowledge and give meaning to a new phrase: Cajun Artist.
Using the oak tree as his main subject in hundreds of paintings in the early 1970’s, Rodrigue eventually expanded his subjects to include the Cajun people and traditions, as well as his interpretations of myths such as Jolie Blonde and Evangeline. He painted the Cajuns in white with little or no shadow, a light shining from within these transplanted people, giving them hope. They floated almost like ghosts and appeared locked in the landscape, often framed by the trunk of a tree or the outline of a bush. The roads and rivers became one dark path leading to the small light underneath the oaks.