Pages from Dusti Bongé sketchbooks

See Great Art is excited to continue our partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation. The mission of the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation is to promote the artistic legacy of Dusti Bongé, Mississippi’s first Abstract Expressionist painter, through exhibition, conservation, scholarship and education. That is a program we can support!

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.

This week we’re looking at FAV-O-RITE Sketch Book: The Spiral 58R, pages 2, 3 & 4, 1951, pen & ink on paper, 7 3/4x 5”.

TEXT BY: Ligia Römer

From the mid-1940s and into the early 1950s, Dusti Bongé filled numerous sketchbooks with all kinds of figure studies. The earlier dated ones contain sketches that look like gesture drawings quickly capturing the pose of the subject, or blind contour drawings, that focus on tracing the contours of the model.

Many artists practice doing these types of studies to continually hone their skills, But in Dusti’s case, these figures eventually evolve into more and more surreal beings. By 1950 we start to see her very unique and well- defined style of figures emerge, to wit: the Keyhole People

Here you have a few pages from one of those sketchbooks from 1951. This particular sketchbook had 13 pages of the original 30 sheets still in it, each page with a different cast of characters. In all of these sketches the characters no longer have any actual human form, and yet you still recognize something familiar in them and the way their shapes interact.

Dusti Bongé FAV-O-RITE Sketch Book: The Spiral 58R, page 2, 1951, pen & ink on paper, 7 3/4x 5”. Courtesy of Dusti Bongé Art Foundation.

On Page 2, the figures look like they might be dancing or sparring. The group on Page 3 could be a family, perhaps with a little pet. The two characters on Page 4 look like they are standing together on the beach, suggested by the little waves establishing the horizon line, with a little bird in the sky. The little bird would recur in many of her surrealist Keyhole works

Dusti filled eight or nine of these same Fav-o-rite sketchbooks with her Keyhole People, thereby offering us a wonderful peek into her boundless imagination. There is no telling where the missing pages of some of these sketchbooks may have ended up, but she was known to destroy works she was particularly displeased with.

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