Dusti Bongé in her studio, 1957. Courtesy Bongé Family Archives
Dusti Bongé was born on August 9th, 1903, and raised in Biloxi, Mississippi. She attended Blue Mountain College in 1919 and subsequently, with her parents’ blessings, moved to Chicago to study theater in 1922. Here she met her future husband, Archie Bongé, a realist painter and cowboy from Nebraska. She also acquired the nickname “Dusti”. Around 1924 they both, independently, moved from Chicago to New York. Here Dusti started her acting career on the stage, and in silent movies and "Talkies" at Astoria Studios under the stage name “Eunice Lyle”.
Archie and Dusti got married in 1928 and had their wedding in Biloxi. The famed naturalist painter Walter Inglis Anderson of Ocean Springs served as best man at their wedding. They returned to live in New York. In 1929 their only son Lyle was born.
Around 1934 Dusti and Archie returned to Dusti’s hometown of Biloxi to settle down, raise their son Lyle, and allow Archie more time for painting. Dusti started to take an interest in painting and modern art. She would accompany Archie on his various artistic excursions in and around Biloxi to paint local scenes and buildings. She began to sketch with him, and studied how he worked using different media and materials. Unfortunately, Archie became seriously ill in 1935 and passed away in 1936.
Archie had encouraged Dusti’s early artistic work, and after his death Dusti found solace in his studio and began painting and drawing earnestly. She was 33. This would be the start of a prolific art career spanning more than 55 years.
Dusti Bongé’s work went through several stylistic evolutions, quickly growing more and more abstract. She continually experimented with different expressive techniques in her work. She explored various gestural approaches, alternating palettes and diverse compositional layouts. In fact, she thought it was important to do this, so that one would not get too comfortable in one's technique.
The depth and breadth of her oeuvre is reflected in the collection of the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation.