Rodrigue’s Swirling Vision: The Sun, Cosmos, and Hurricanes
George Rodrigue returned to the swirl often throughout his career. It first appeared in his landscapes and Cajun series paintings as a light in the distance, symbolizing hope and a brighter tomorrow. Later it evolved into Hurricanes and the Cosmos, as the birth of creativity, and as a suspension of reality —a symbol of the mysterious, mystical, and spiritual.
For George Rodrigue, the cosmos was a constant source of mystery and inspiration. Within his painting Millennium (1999, within this exhibition), he renders the cosmos as the source of all creativity, allegorized by an Egyptian shown plucking a star from the swirling mass.
The sun too has played a prominent role in civilization since ancient times. As a powerful source of light and warmth, its connection to our existence transcends the object itself, relating it to the mystical, spiritual, and unexplained. The Egyptians, Greeks, Mayans and American Plains Indians all built sun observatories, and each revered a sun-god within their sacred creed— a devotion that extends naturally and prolifically into the arts.
For George Rodrigue, the sun first appeared in his early landscapes as a light within a distant, small horizon, symbolizing hope that the Cajun people would find a new home in south Louisiana following their 1755 expulsion from Canada. Soon after, the sun developed on his canvas into a more general symbol of a brighter tomorrow. Swirls of yellow, gold, and red blend into compound colors, as moons, stars, and other celestial bodies join the sun, all swirling across Rodrigue’s surreal, imaginary world.
Finally, and perhaps in his most literal interpretation, Rodrigue’s Hurricanes, a series of seventy paintings which he later described as something he “had to get out of his system,” swirl, as Rodrigue intended, along the walls of this exhibition— their round canvases and abstract compositions resembling planets as much as storms.
In 2012, after his cancer entered remission, Rodrigue commented,
“People asked me all summer, ‘what will you paint once you’re back at your easel?’ I said I didn’t know, but that it would probably relate to my illness. Looking at these first canvases, that’s exactly what happened. “I’m painting hope… love… happiness… sunshine”. – G.R.
Exhibition continues through December 7, 2018.