Art Career

Big Red, 1987, Oil on canvas


Dusti Bongé’s prolific art career spanned more than 55 years. This short narrative about her stylistic and artistic development is helpful when contemplating her oeuvre and understanding the collection of the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation.

Bongé began her painting career in the mid-1930s.  Initially, she depicted scenes of her native Biloxi as well as still life compositions. Although these early works are representational in nature, they already exhibit her ability to move from a realistic to a much more modernist style.

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Dusti painting in her studio, Biloxi MS, late 1950s.

[Credit: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution]

As early as 1938, Bongé began to experiment with Surrealism and worked in that style for over a decade.   In the early 1950s, her Surrealist style continued to evolve as she began her depictions of  of what she called “Keyhole People.”   Then, the years from 1953-1956 mark a crucial transitional period in her work as she moves from her Surrealist explorations into fully abstract work.  Indeed, Abstract Expressionism ultimately became the style in which she seemed to find her greatest satisfaction. 

Meanwhile, the Betty Parsons Gallery opened in New York in 1946.  Betty Parsons is credited for her major role in the early promotion of Abstract Expressionism in the art world at large.  Dusti Bongé forged a relationship with the Abstract Expressionist dealer, who would represent her for many years.  Parsons gave Bongé her first solo exhibition in April 1956.  Bongé’s work from this period features bold colors, broad gestures, angular forms, and paint surfaces that are often etched and highly textured. 

Bongé continued to work in her Abstract Expressionist style throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, but with a somewhat darker palette. Her final show at the Betty Parsons Gallery was in 1975. However she continued to create a very strong body of abstract work, including some monumental oil paintings, through the next decade.

(See: Betty Parsons Papers and Gallery Records, 1927-1985)

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Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY,  November 12- December 1, 1962


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Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY,  November 12- December 1, 1962

[Credit: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution]


During the late 1980s and early 1990s, small format watercolor paintings became her preferred medium. Many of these works were on Joss paper, sheets of bamboo or rice paper centered with a small square of gold or silver leaf, which were available at the local Asian markets.  “It became a special challenge,” she said, “to make it seem as if I had placed that little square right there.” She painted her last work in 1991.

Exhibitions of work

Bongé’s work has been exhibited at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans; the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Mississippi; the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi; the Mississippi Museum of Art; and the Mobile Museum of Art. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Mississippi Museum of Art; the Ogden Museum of Southern Art; the Mobile Museum of Art; the National Museum of Women in the Arts; and the Johnson Collection in Spartanburg, South Carolina, as well as a number of private collections throughout the United States.

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The Gallery Up, Ocean Springs MS, September 1971.

Museum Collections

Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY

The Historic New Orleans Collection, New Orleans, LA

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, SC

Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, MS

Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS

Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, AL

Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA

Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington , DC

Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA

Radford University Art Museum, Radford, VA

University of Southern Mississippi Art Museum, Hattiesburg, MS

Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Ocean Springs, MS

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Dusti with Death of Maggie – Sunflower Dream No. 1

[Credit: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution]


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Dusti with Circles Penetrated

[Credit: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution]