While I prefer her Abstract Expressionist paintings, Dusti Bongé worked across almost all styles of modern art including Surrealism. For this week’s picture in our partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation in Biloxi, MS, we are treated to a Dusti Bongé surrealist portrait.
Analysis of the artwork, as always, comes from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Execuive Director Ligia M. Römer.
Untitled (Surrealist Portrait of a Woman), 1945, mixed media on paper, 12” x 9”
By 1945, after less than a decade of seriously pursuing her art, Dusti Bongé had already participated in several exhibits nationally, including in New York at the Mortimer Brandt Gallery, which at the time was run by Betty Parsons.
It was the time when Dusti’s work increasingly shifted from her early cubist inspired local scenes to her surrealist explorations inspired by dreams, the circus, and her readings of Freud and Jung. These surrealist works would often have human figures in them and several of those were in fact portraits. The portraits render their various subjects, most of them unknown to us, with dreamy expressions, or far off gazes, and mostly in somewhat unintelligible backgrounds of various colors and patterns.
This portrait of a woman clearly has hints of these surrealist qualities. Dusti shows the woman with eyes closed or turned downward. Her features are indicated with a remarkably sparse few black ink lines, which eventually dart off into the background with its detailed patterning, stippling, and cross hatching, hinting at a natural setting.
The color palette in this portrait is more subdued than in many of her other surrealist pieces, dominated by muted greens, except for the brown and peach colors of the woman’s hair and skin. The colors are laid down quickly and the lines are applied with loose, confident marks, not belabored, all together giving the overall composition a spontaneous and dynamic quality.