Dusti Bongé (Eunice Lyle Swetman) was born and raised in Biloxi MS. She attended college and subsequently, with her parents’ blessings, moved to Chicago to study theater in 1921. Here she met her future husband, Archie Bongé, a realist painter and cowboy from Nebraska. She also acquired the nickname “Dusti”. They both eventually moved from Chicago to New York, where she started her acting career on the stage and in early “Talkies”. They got married in 1928 and had their wedding in Biloxi. The famed naturalist painter Walter Anderson of Ocean Springs served as best man at their wedding.
In 1934 Dusti and Archie returned to Dusti’s hometown of Biloxi to settle down and raise their young son Lyle and allow Archie more time for painting. Dusti started to take an interest in painting and modern art. Unfortunately, Archie became seriously ill and died unexpectedly in 1936. He had encouraged her early artistic work and taken her on excursions to paint local scenes & buildings. After Archie’s death, Dusti found solace in his studio and began painting and drawing seriously. She was 33. She wound up painting for the rest of her life.
1903 August 9: Dusti Bongé (Eunice Lyle Swetman) is born in Biloxi, Mississippi.
1919 Dusti attends Blue Mountain College. She completes her studies there in two years.
1921 Dusti moves to Chicago to attend the Lyceum Arts Conservatory to study drama. She meets Archie Bongé, a cowboy and artist, from Nebraska. She acquires the nickname “Dusty”.
1923 Dusti moves to New York to continue her acting career. Archie Bongé is already in New York, and they date.
1928 Dusti marries Archie in Biloxi. Walter Anderson is best man at their wedding. She works at Astoria Studios (Queens NY) acting in early “Talkies.”
Dusti has an argument with Archie and makes him a picture to apologize, which she leaves on his easel. Archie likes her work and encourages her to continue.
1929 Dusti is offered a part in a play. She declines the offer, as she is pregnant. On November 5, Lyle Bongé is born at her parents’ house in Biloxi. The young family continues to live in New York.
1934 Dusti, Archie and Lyle move to Biloxi. Dusti shows serious interest in painting and abstract art. She spends more time in the studio with Archie, who inspires her to paint but discourages her from attending art school.
1936 Archie dies of a nervous system disorder (from ALS, or an experimental vaccine). Dusti never marries again.
Dusti begins painting full-time at age 33. To support herself and Lyle, she works for shrimp companies collecting rent from the factory workers’ camps. She starts to paint and draw local scenes.
1939 First New York show, Contemporary Arts Gallery, 57th Street.
1946 The Betty Parsons Gallery in New York opens. The gallery represents many AbEx painters, including Dusti.
1952 Dusti makes her first of many trips to Mexico. This first trip is to visit Lyle who is studying in Mexico City.
1956 First solo show in Betty Parsons Gallery.
Dusti continues painting and exploring new techniques.
1975 Last solo exhibition in Betty Parsons Gallery.
Experiments with fiberglass windows installations.
1991 Dusti paints her last watercolor.
1993 Dusti passes away at her home in Biloxi.
Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY
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
St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Saint Mary City, MD
The Historic New Orleans Collection, New Orleans, LA
University of Southern Mississippi Art Museum, Hattiesburg, MS
Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Ocean Springs, MS
Black, Patti Carr, American Masters of the Mississippi Gulf Coast: George Ohr, Dusti Bongé, Walter Anderson, Richmond Barthe, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.
Black, Patti Carr, Art in Mississippi 1720-1980, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998.
Black, Patti Carr, The Mississippi Story. Ed. Robin C. Dietrick. Jackson: Mississippi Museum of Art, 2007.
Blackman, Lynne, ed., Central to Their Lives: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2018.
Bongé, Dusti, Dusti Bongé: The Life of an Artist, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1982.
Falk, Peter Hastings, ed., Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975, Madison, Connecticut: Soundview Press, 1999.
Gruber, J. Richard, Dusti Bongé, Art and Life: Biloxi, New Orleans, New York, Biloxi: Dusti Bongé Art Foundation, 2019.
Gruber, J. Richard and David Houston, The Art of the South 1890-2003: The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, London: Scala Publishers, 2004.
Hall, Lee. Betty Parsons, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991.
Meyer, Stacey and Troy Gilbert, New Orleans Kitchens: Recipes from the Big Easy’s Best Restaurants, Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2010.
Wierich, Jochen, ed., Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise, Jackson: Mississippi Museum of Art, 2017.