Dusti Bongé New Orleans music fan sketch

I love New Orleans and Dusti Bongé did too. Let’s head to the Big Easy for this installment of See Great Art’s partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation. Analysis of the work comes from DBAF Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.

Dusti Bongé, The Spiral Sketch Book – p.6 verso, c. 1948, ink on paper, 12” x 9”

This spiral sketchbook is filled with Dusti Bongé’s contour drawings of jazz scenes in New Orleans. This one is likely from the late 1940s, given that the sketches are all done in blue ballpoint pen, which became widely available in the USA after WWII.

However, given its content, if the sketchbook is from the time that Larry Borenstein had his art gallery, “Mr. Larry’s Gallery,” which he populated with jazz musicians to attract the crowds, and which eventually morphed into the full blown, famous music venue now known the world over as Preservation Hall, then this sketchbook actually dates to the early 50s.

Either way, this was the time when Dusti frequented New Orleans more and more and befriended many of the characters in its modern artistic community.

New Orleans had been and continues to be a well of artistic inspiration for all the arts including music, visual arts, and literature. 20th century greats from the city or drawn to it, include Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote. Around the midcentury, the artists Dusti encountered here were visual artists like Robert Helmer, George Dunbar, Jack Robinson, Jean Seidenberg, Katherine Choy and Ida Kohlmeyer.

We’ve shared a work from this particular sketchbook before, of two jazz musicians, one playing the bass and one the guitar. This time around we have a sketch not of the cool cats playing jazz, but of one of the joyous audience members, reveling in the music. Again, Dusti Bongé fully expresses the essence of this dancing figure at this particular moment with just a few marks.

As you follow the contours of the figure you can totally sense what Dusti must have sensed at the time; that, with complete abandon, this woman is dancing to her heart’s content. A photograph could not have captured that feeling any better.

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