Dusti Bongé Study for Where the Shrimp Pickers Live takes center stage this week in the See Great Art-Dusti Bongé Art Foundation partnership. Bongé was born and raised and then returned to coastal Mississippi – Biloxi to be specific – following time spent in Chicago and New York as a young woman. She moved home after the birth of her one child, a son named Lyle. Scenes of the shrimping industry, which was pervasive around the Gulf of Mexico during the mid-20th century, would have served as a backdrop for Bongé’s life there.
Each week, See Great Art will share one of Bongé’s artworks with analysis of the piece from Ligia Römer, PhD, Executive Director at the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation. That analysis follows:
When Dusti Bongé started to seriously pursue her artistic career, she retraced the steps she took with her husband Arch when they would venture into the different neighborhoods of Biloxi. Often frequented by them and later by Dusti alone, were all areas related to the seafood industry, whether it be in the Back Bay a or along the beach, at the factories, at the harbor, at the docks, at the camps where the seasonal fishermen lived.
A wonderful piece from this period is Study for Where the Shrimp Pickers Live, a vibrant, energetic, slightly chaotic scene of various modest cottages all opening up to a small yard, with clotheslines loaded with the wash crisscrossing the open space of the yard amongst the palm trees. It is a charming unassuming scene with a rich spatial composition.
Dusti herself must have really enjoyed this scene and how she captured its energy, and its geometric complexity, because she subsequently painted Where the Shrimp Pickers Live soon after. The palm trees are replaced by one central oak tree, and the cottages are arranged more neatly like little row houses, but although less jumbled, the lively atmosphere of the scene is exactly the same.
It is interesting to note that with all the stately 19th century homes gracing Front Beach, it was the vitality of the industrialized cityscape with its canneries and workers quarters that offered artistic inspiration. This celebration of industry was a common theme back then.