Dusti Bongé New Orleans musician sketch

I love Dusti Bongé’s artwork and I love New Orleans. The two come together in a sketch this week.

Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia M. Römer shares the connection. Dusti, remember, lived in Biloxi, MS, 90 miles to the east.

Dusti Bongé, The Spiral Sketch Book – p.11, c. 1948, pen & ink on paper, 12” x 9”

This sketch of musicians is from a sketchbook that Dusti Bongé most certainly had on hand during her time spent in New Orleans. This particular sketchbook contains about a dozen sketches, mostly depicting people with instruments and a few figures that appear to be dancing.

Several years after WWII, Dusti visited New Orleans at frequent intervals, participating in its vibrant art scene. She had many friends in the art world there, including Hazel Guggenheim McKinley, who had moved there in 1939, Paul Ninas, who had also been friends with Dusti’s husband Archie, and George Dunbar, one of the founding members of the Orleans Gallery, just to name a few.

And of course, it being New Orleans, the art world also included many characters from the jazz world. Thus, Dusti was in a relationship with Larry Borenstein who had an art gallery in the French quarter. Larry invited jazz musicians to rehearse and play at his gallery as a way to attract in customers for the art. “Mr. Larry’s Gallery” soon became the prime spot for traditional New Orleans jazz musicians and eventually morphed into the famed jazz venue Preservation Hall.

It is highly likely that these sketches of musicians and dancers are some of Dusti’s quick observations of a typical jam session at this very unique and historical place. This particular sketch features two musicians, a guitarist and a stand-up bass player. Each player is captured with a few, quick, flowing contour lines.

Although the lines are minimal, they nonetheless offer a genuine sense of the scene. The relaxed posture of the players, the leaning curve of the bass, and the movement of the swift marks with which Dusti captured them, all convey an acute sense of the atmosphere: one with some very cool cats doing what they do best, make fabulous jazz music that resonates in one’s soul.

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