Dusti Bongé Oyster Chorus

Few things represent the Mississippi Gulf Coast the way oysters do. This area was once a leading oyster fishery, but years of ecological mismanagement throughout the Gulf region has brought their numbers down from Texas to Florida. As a longtime resident of Biloxi, of course Dusti Bongé tried her hand at oysters. The results were predictably wonderful.

For this week’s artwork in the partnership between See Great Art and the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation, we take a look at Study for Oyster Chorus, 1987, watercolor on paper, 9 x 11 3/4”.

Analysis of the Dusti Bongé oyster study comes from Ligia Römer, PhD, Executive Director at the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation, with offices located in Biloxi and open to visitors for discovery.

By: Ligia Römer

We mentioned before that Dusti Bongé had an extremely prolific decade during the 1980s, producing small works on paper and very large canvases. Sometimes the smaller works turned out to be inspiration for the large paintings and thus effectively could be considered studies.

The painting Oyster Chorus is one of the last large masterpieces Dusti painted in 1987, when she was 84 years old. And the artwork we present this week is a study for that painting.

Notice that in this watercolor study the basic composition and warm color palette of the painting are already established. The configuration shows three “oysters” arranged closely together, all slightly overlapping, with the center one positioned a bit lower and in the foreground. The trio is anchored visually by a horizon line, which establishes a sense of depth. The horizon line is created by the two different shades of background color, darker above and lighter below.

Although the work on paper is clearly it’s inspiration, the painting is not simply a recreation at a larger scale. Instead, in the painting the disposition of the oysters and the background has been turned upside down. The center oyster is now placed slightly higher than the other two. In the background the lighter shade of brown is on top. And, the oyster to the right does not quite overlap with the center one, creating a bit more spatial tension in the overall arrangement.

You can see Dusti Bongé Oyster Chorus painting at the Mississippi Museum of Art.


Dusti Bongé, Oyster Chorus, 1987. Oil on Canvas at Mississippi Museum of Art. Courtesy Dusti Bongé Art Foundation.

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