SeeGreatArt’s partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation in Biloxi, MS has revealed numerous sketches and images of the circus. In this article, they combine. Analysis, as always, from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.
Dusti Bongé, National Surety Corporation Diary 1938 – April 8, 1938, graphite pencil on printed paper, 5 1/2” x 8”
This is a sketch from one of Dusti Bongé’s earliest sketchbooks. In those early days, Dusti would sometimes avail herself of any source of blank paper available, such as complimentary insurance company diaries or yearbooks, which she used as sketchbooks. In these yearbooks, Saturday and Sunday would share a page, thus interrupting the blank space halfway down the page. Dusti tended to skip sketching on those pages. Hence, in this diary she started on the January 3rd page, sketching on most pages up until the pages in late April. She never filled the remainder of this particular diary, hopefully because she found some better paper.
Herewith a funny and slightly messy scene of what was to become a favorite subject matter to Dusti for quite a few years: the circus. In this pencil sketch you can see all the elements of the circus that she tries to capture simultaneously. This scene is probably one of the Big Top with its center ring. There is a horse, miscellaneous steps, small platforms, what might be trapeze ladders, bleachers, tent poles, billowing fabric and so on. There are several other sketches with circus animals.
This is not an organized tableau, but rather the active scene of the pre-show set up. Dusti Bongé always said that was her preferred time at the circus. All the activity, the menagerie of animals, the unique characters, not yet performing but being themselves, and all the colorful props and fabrics would become rich material for her unique surrealist series of works known as the Circus Series.