Dusti Bongé sketchbooks reveal worlds of creativity

When inspiration strikes me away from my computer as a writer, I turn to my iPhone voice memo recorder and “talk” out my idea. Artists lean on their sketchbook – or iPad these days. Long before personal electronic devices, painters like Dusti Bongé took sketchbooks with them everywhere they went to capture fleeting glimmers of creativity.

We have one such entry today thanks to our friends at the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation in Biloxi, MS with insight, as always, from Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.

Dusti Bongé, Strathmore Alexis Drawing White, p.2, c. 1955, mixed media on paper, 14” x 11”

​If you have not made a New Year’s resolution yet, or are looking for a different one, here’s a thought: forget the usual punitive, unattainable goals and instead resolve to bring more creativity into your life. One way to do that is to carry around a notebook or sketchbook. This is something Dusti Bongé always did.

It is an opportunity for visually “thinking out loud,’ for bursts of creativity to be materialized, or for quiet moments of contemplation to be recorded. A sketchbook can accommodate your words, notes, doodles, and masterworks.

Dusti’s notebooks in fact served all of those needs. She wrote some of her poems in them, she sketched many a Biloxi scene in her earlier sketchbooks, and in her abstract years often explored with different media, colors, and mark making. 

From a Strathmore Spiral bound sketchbook originally containing 24 sheets, of which only six remain, here is an excellent example of a burst of creativity. Each one of the works in this medium-sized sketchbook is a bold, graphic exploration of abstract shapes, contrasting colors and strong gestures. 

This work shows hints of a recurring theme inspired by Dusti’s unique perception of the numerous lit windows in New York high rises at night. She perceived them to be filling up the sky, “with many, many small worlds.” 

This distinctive night sky eventually led to both Dusti’s painting and poem entitled “Small World on Top of Small World.” In this earlier sketch you can sense how luminous those windows stacked on top of one another and framed by the structure of the building must have been and how they sparked her imagination.

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