Inside Dusti Bongé sketchbooks

I’ve now had the pleasure of viewing numerous artist sketchbooks. They’re so revealing. So confidential. Ideas, inspirations, doodles, successes, failures. The artistry in sketchbooks often rivals that of the finished product and their immediacy and intimacy are revelatory.

This week our partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation in Biloxi, MS has us peaking inside one of Dusti Bongé’s sketchbooks. Perspective, as always, comes from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.

Black Hardbound Artist Sketchbook – p.90, 1980, various media, 8 ¼” x 5 ¼”

The Foundation has several of Dusti Bongé’s sketchbooks in its collection. Spanning from the late 1930s into the early 1980s, these sketchbooks are fascinating for various reasons. They show the artist’s visual thinking and offer a glimpse into her creative process. At times you can see a theme being explored through various iterations, color schemes and media. Or, you get to witness the tenacious attempt at capturing a particular idea or scene just right. Sometimes there are mere scribbles which may leave you puzzled, other times the sketches are in fact complete works of art. 

Here we have such a complete work of art, shown with its facing page through which we can see the colors bleed from the previous page. The sketchbook that contains this small painting, shows a rich array of artistic explorations. In addition to numerous sketches and paintings, it holds thoughts, poems, and notes, some handwritten and some typed, with words scratched out or changed.

This particular work appears after several other compositions with the figure eight or the infinity symbol. Perhaps it’s pure coincidence, but this was during the time that Dusti was revisiting her longstanding interest in the tenets of Zen Buddhism, according to which space and creatures are infinite, and “we exist since forever.”

There are also a few works in this sketchbook that suggest she started thinking about the void, a concept she subsequently explored in several large-scale paintings.

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