Dusti Bongé self portrait sketch drawing

We’ve enjoyed a number of Dusti Bongé sketch drawings in recent weeks through See Great Art’s partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation. This week, another, with analysis, as always, from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.

Dusti Bongé, Fav-o-rite Sketch Book, p.5, Self Portrait, 1951, ink on paper, 7 3/4” x 5”

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Dusti Bongé did quite a few self-portraits, in pencil, oil pastels and oils. Many of these were more or less realist representations of her own image, even if they already exhibited her modernist tendencies.  

​As her work evolved into her surrealist style, the self-portraits also evolved. Now, with the subject matter of her work being guided by her imagination and dreams, rather than by a need to represent the world around her, most of her work started to take on an enigmatic quality. There would be familiar elements presented in unfamiliar ways or in incongruous combinations.

During this time she produced fewer self-portraits, since she was no longer engaged in representing things. And hence, at this point, the few self-portraits she did create, were no longer trying to capture her physical appearance.

Here we have a highly abstracted self-portrait in pen & ink, from a sketchbook that also contains several drawings of her Keyhole Figures. We can recognize an eye, a mouth, some semblance of hair, the partial outline of her face and some rather mysterious bubbles, which may or may not be emanating from her lips. What we cannot really recognize here is Dusti, or any specific person. It’s as if this portrait presents fragments of a person rather than representing a person.

Thus, the eye gives us a partial glimpse into the soul, the mouth with bubbles perhaps suggests something about the content of the mind, or a thought that cannot be expressed. Clearly Dusti’s actual countenance is no longer relevant here.

Maybe, with this self-portrait, Dusti is telling us that we can never really know ourselves.

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