Dusti Bongé drawing on yearbook page

To an artist, almost anything can be a canvas. This Dusti Bongé drawing on an insurance company yearbook page recalls Native American ledger drawings. Analysis, of the artwork, as always, comes from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.

Dusti Bongé, United States Fidelity and Guarantee Company Yearbook – August 13, c. 1940, pencil on paper, 8” x 5 ½”

Continuing on last week’s theme of carrying around a sketchbook and “thinking on paper,” here is a work from one of Dusti Bongé’s earliest sketchbooks. As a matter of fact, it isn’t even a sketchbook. In Dusti’s case any notebook would do in a pinch.

This old yearbook, originally from 1924, with a page for every day of the year was almost completely filled up by her with various sketches ranging from Biloxi scenes with boats, buildings, gazebos and cemeteries, to very early surrealist-tending sketches of animals, figures and dreamy compositions.

Considering the book is 99 years old, and probably not intended for such longevity, and the sketches are 83 years old, it is a marvel that it is still with us. Luckily so, for it is filled with some real treasures.

Here we have a quick study of a horned bull or cow in a grassy spot, head resting on its hoof. The animal appears to be leaning in toward the viewer, and to have a carefree countenance. Its head and horns are drawn with just a few easy curving lines, and some swift shading gives them depth and volume. In the background, following the curvature of its neck, it almost seems there is a row of small cottages.

Sprinkled with what would soon become her signature patterns of stipples, waves, and dashes in her surrealist paintings, she quickly gives an indication of the grass and soil below and the swirling clouds above.

Finally, there is a lovely little flower that completes the picture.

In the 1930s Dusti and her husband Archie did indeed have a cow on their property in Biloxi, and they had a cowshed that later was dubbed “Lyle’s Clubhouse.” She did several sketches and an oil painting of the shed.

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