New Orleans Jazz Fest Limited Edition Art Posters
by George Rodrigue
George Rodrigue's comments on the Jazz Fest series:
The Jazz Fest poster committee approached me in the fall of 1994 and asked whom I would paint if I were selected for the following year. It was a phone call I'd been hoping for after many years of painting and showing my work in New Orleans. For me, jazz is synonymous with Louis Armstrong. In the past, the committee insisted that the subject be someone who had played at the festival. After much discussion and a peek at my original sketches, however, they abandoned this rule and included Louis Armstrong as a print. In an ironic twist, Louis Armstrong died in 1971, the first year of Jazz Fest.
To everyone's surprise, including mine, the poster proved to be the most successful in the festival's history, with the entire edition selling out at the fairgrounds during the first week.
Following the success of the 1995 poster, Jazz Fest asked me to paint Pete Fountain. Pete and I are old friends, and so I jumped at the chance. The committee requested that the design be similar to the Louis Armstrong poster from the year before. It was a great time and a great honor ..... My good friend Pete Fountain sat there and posed for me, giving me the opportunity to immortalize him alongside Louis Armstrong.
After this print, I resigned to never do another one, realizing that Jazz Fest was an opportunity for upcoming artists to gain exposure for their work. I was happy to have made an artistic contribution to Jazz Fest for two years, and in my mind I was finished.
Three years later, jazz great Al "Jumbo" Hirt passed away. Al and his wife Beverly were early collectors of my blue dog paintings. He and I became friends when we were honored together as Louisiana Legends in 1991. After his death in April 1999, Beverly contacted me and asked if I would consider painting his portrait for the Millennium Jazz Festival. It was a personal request and a personal decision. I could not refuse.
Hence, the Rodrigue Jazz Fest posters became a trilogy --- Three Louisiana Jazz Legends playing music together among the oaks.
"Does the blue dog belong in a Jazz Fest poster?" I do get this question on occasion.
Besides the obvious fact that the blue dog, along with the oak tree, has become a signature of sorts --- something people expect to see in my paintings from those years --- there is also its obvious reference to the blues. More significant to my mind, however, is the relationship between two styles, one in art and one in music. Both the blue dog and jazz grew out of the history and culture surrounding the Mississippi River delta. It was the river's highway that brought jazz to Memphis, Chicago, the rest of the country, and beyond. The blue dog, a legend in its own right even beyond its Cajun loup-garou beginnings, travels the same path. Together in the form of the posters in the Jazz Fest Trilogy, they create memories of sound and vision from south Louisiana, no matter where they hang in the world.
"When will you do another poster?" Another popular query.
I have no plans to create another Jazz Fest poster. I truly feel honored to have painted three of Louisiana's great jazz musicians. My hope is that the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will continue to promote both the musical and visual arts from its wellspring of local creative talent.
Information courtesy of George Rodrigue and the Rodrigue Studio
To visit his website http://www.georgerodrigue.com/jazzfest.htm