On May 1, 2019, after 28 years, an end of an era has come to Rodrigue Studio as we say farewell to our beautiful Carmel location. As part of a new direction in expanding George Rodrigue’s legacy from a primarily commercial focus, Rodrigue Studio is reaching farther with exciting new exhibitions and the NEW George Rodrigue Life & Legacy Foundation.
In 1991 George Rodrigue opened Galerie Blue Dog in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. The one-square-mile village includes cottages, restaurants, shops and galleries, all descending westward towards the beach and Pacific Ocean.
“I visited Carmel often while a student at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles during the 1960s,” recalled Rodrigue. “As long as I can remember, it was my dream to open a gallery in this seaside artist’s community.”
In Rodrigue’s Louisiana style, the gallery opened with the help of his good friend, Chef Paul Prudhomme, who fed hundreds, or maybe thousands, of eager Californians during a party so popular that lines wrapped around the block. We received reservation requests for months afterwards, as folks confused the arrival of a Cajun artist with the arrival of jambalaya and étouffée.
The original Galerie Blue Dog opened in 1991 on the South side of 6th Avenue between Lincoln and Dolores Streets. A former doctor’s office, the space was long and narrow, with one small window. At the time, it was the only option available in the popular tourist’s destination. One block from the main drag of Ocean Avenue, the odd space fit us well for many years, as we joined the artist-owned galleries and family businesses that cemented Carmel’s charm.
Wendy Rodrigue described our side of the street as “Flowers, Fruit, Dogs, Ducks and Fairies,” featuring Lilliana Braico’s pink blossoms, Loran Speck’s Renaissance-style still-lifes, George Rodrigue’s contemporary Blue Dogs, The Decoy’s hand-carved wooden ducks, and Lynn Lupetti’s dainty creatures and fairies.
In fact, Jenny Johnson, who works today full time at Rodrigue Studio in Carmel, worked first in her family’s business, The Decoy, and later for the Lynn Lupetti Gallery, both originally on our block.
Also during this time, Mary Threadgill came to work for the gallery. A Certified Gemologist, Mary and her late husband, Burney, were longtime Carmel residents who raised their family here.
From Wendy Rodrigue:
“In Carmel I worked from the beginning with Sandra Crake, a Baton Rouge native by way of Arkansas and Texas, who remained in California until 2011, when she returned to Louisiana.
Today I channel the early years as my ‘olden days,’ recalling our first clients, hand-written invoices, and daily trips to Carmel Camera Center. I rehung the gallery many late nights, imagining on the following morning, as I walked from Guadalupe to Dolores, that I encountered George’s art for the first time. If I didn’t stop, stunned, I pulled the paintings from the walls, grabbed the ladder and hammer, and started again.
I recall with sentiment the heavy gallery typewriter, along with Sandra’s and my excitement over the new ‘roll’ fax machine and the way, as Sandra said, we “stood on our heads” on the gallery floor, finagling a 6-foot high roll of bubble wrap and assembling wooden crates. Throughout it all, we adhered to our self-imposed 1990s gallery fashion: short skirts, high heels, and big hair.
It was in Carmel that Rodrigue’s famous Loup-garou first hung by my desk, selling in 1993 and finding its way, years later, back to me. In 1992 I stood in line at the Carmel Drugstore for multiple copies of The Wall Street Journal featuring a sketched Blue Dog on the front page. And in 1993, following Absolut Louisiana and Absolut Rodrigue, it was in Carmel that I witnessed the public’s shift from ‘What’s with this dog?’ to ‘Hey! I know that dog!'”
In 1998 George Rodrigue became, once again, agent-free and owner of his galleries. A change in name accompanied the legalities, and Galerie Blue Dog became Rodrigue Studio. In 2009 he relocated his Carmel gallery to a location he eyed for years, abandoning the former doctor’s office for a larger and brighter exhibition space.
I could write for days about George’s history in Carmel, but I think I’ll let the photos speak for us instead… About George’s and my love for the Carmel-by-the-Sea community, for the “Flowers, Fruit, Dogs, Ducks, and Fairies” of 6th Avenue, for wet paintings, lilacs in the window, bags of banana slugs, sand dollar hunts, bonfires, sunsets, and long walks between the gallery, the beach, and a Guadalupe Street cottage. More than anything, however, it is the people who have meant the most. Jenny, Mary, and Sandra gave the gallery life and joy and made it thrive, whether George and I were in town or not. These incredible women will always be a substantial and important part of the history and legacy of George Rodrigue, and they deserve heartfelt gratitude and best wishes from us all. – Wendy Rodrigue