I love this quick, little Dusti Bongé Biloxi sketch – with a surprise! The distinctive sense of place. The lively color. The thin, speedy line. Joyous. Spontaneous. Skillful.
Analysis of the artwork, as always, comes from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia Römer.
Dusti Bongé, Lehigh Sketch Book – p.3 recto, 1940, pen & ink on paper, 8” x 10”
This drawing is from a sketchbook of the early years, which contains an interesting combination of sketches. There are several pages that feature quick studies, like this one, of typical Biloxi scenes drawn in colored pen and ink line drawings.
Then, at some point several years later, Dusti Bongé must have been in dire need of some sketch paper and started reusing this sketchbook, drawing on the verso of these early studies and filling up the remainder of the pages in the book. But these subsequent sketches are all done in blue ball point pen which became widely available in the USA after WWII, and they range from contour drawings of human figures and animals, to figures that are early versions of the Keyhole People.
Back to this particular sketch. Dusti here depicts a familiar scene along the waterfront, the hectic seafood industry’s goings on, with a seafood factory on pilings, several boats including a shrimp boat with outriggers, and a few smaller boats in the foreground.
All elements are rendered with very basic, quick marks, and in different colors that may or may not reflect their actual color. Green, red, blue, yellow and black are all variously used on the boats and building to distinguish or emphasize their various aspects. The water does happen to be blue.
Overall, it’s the typical dynamic scene that Dusti liked to portray, but there is one little boat in black and red, perhaps a canoe, in the foreground that makes this sketch unique. This little boat has a person in it!
In all the many quick studies, as well as finished paintings, of quintessential Biloxi scenes that Dusti created during this early period, these scenes almost never contain any people. They are always focused on the shapes of the structures, whether they be buildings, boats or other.
This drawing is one of the very rare exceptions!