Surrealist drawing by Dusti Bongé

SeeGreatArt’s partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation continues looking at her exploration of Surrealism. As the first artist from Mississippi to work exclusively in a Modernist style, Dusti Bongé (1903-1993) was deeply interested in Surrealism and spent a chunk of her career focused on it.

Analysis of the work, as always comes from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.

Dusti Bongé, Artist’s Drawing Tablet – p.2, c. 1945, pen & ink on paper, 12” x 9”

This drawing tablet from around 1945 is from the height of Dusti Bongé’s surrealist period, which started with her works inspired by the real life, yet seemingly surreal, scenes of the circus and eventually evolved into her very surrealist Keyhole People. This tablet is filled with black pen and ink line drawings like the one you see above.

These drawings are each rather enigmatic, with figurative allusions to human faces and bodies that begin to morph into abstract forms. They seem to straddle this in-between time in her surrealism when Dusti Bongé drew many strange animals, birds, portraits, and mysterious shapes with both curves and sharp edges. Most of these have no obvious real life reference, yet invariably carry some kind of meaning for Dusti.

In this sparse sketch with very few lines there is clearly a face in the upper right and what appears to be a hand across from the face. From the face there is both a curved line down to the center right where the curve ends in an acute angle upward, and a somewhat straight line that angles down to the left and then curves up to become the hand.

Beyond that any reference to a human figure devolves into a few remaining lines suggesting that this figure might be embracing or holding something. The central form being embraced is created by a third line starting at the center of the composition and below the face. It curves down and left and then acutely up and around the hand and continues twisting and turning left and right, upward and downward till eventually it folds back onto itself.

For all its lack of a clearly identifiable overall figure, beyond the face, this sketch nonetheless captures a tenderness in the facial expression and the twisted embracing form. And despite the spare use of lines, the twists and turns these lines make create a very engaging and compelling overall composition. Dusti must have thought so too, for she signed the drawing.

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