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‘Piercing the inner wall’

Exhibition celebrates work of Biloxi artist Dusti Bonge’

In her art, Dusti Bonge’ reflected her coastal roots. 

“Her early work was very influenced by Biloxi, as she captured what she was familiar with – often sketching during walks around town,” says Ryan N. Dennis, chief curator and artistic director of the Center for Art & Public Exchange for the Mississippi Museum of Art. “She painted sailboats, shrimp boats, houses and buildings — and even the circus.” 

The Mississippi Museum of Art is celebrating Bonge’, a pioneering artist whose work graces collections across the country, with an exhibit titled: “Piercing the Inner Wall: The Art of Dusti Bongé.” 

The exhibit’s title is based on a quote by Bonge’, describing the inner wall as “a highly individual thing that surrounds the real person, not the superficial covering.” 

“I have always had the feeling that thoughts, ideas and emotions can penetrate just like an arrow,” she said. “They go straight through to that inner wall.” 

The display, which will be on view through May 23, features 65 paintings, 29 works on paper and three sculptures drawn from private loans and public institutions — including works from the museum’s own collection. The pieces trace the spiritual and artistic progression of Bonge’, born Eunice Lyle Swetman, who worked as an actress in Chicago and New York before her husband, Archie, recognized and encouraged her gift for painting. 

Bongé’s artistic career spans from the 1930s to early 1990s, and she created a body of work that transitioned from figurative and cubist depictions of scenes of her hometown to surrealism and abstract expressionism. 

“It is rare that someone would create art in such different styles throughout their lifetime,” Dennis says, adding, “She leaves a legacy of immense creativity, risk-taking and dedication.” 

The exhibit follows the release of “Dusti Bongé, Art and Life: Biloxi, New Orleans & New York,” the first major book devoted to the artist’s life and work. 


Piercing the Inner Wall: The Art of Dusti Bongé
Feb. 20 through May 23
$15 adult, $13 senior, $10 student
Mississippi Museum of Art, 380 S. Lamar St., Jackson
(601) 960-1515;
Learn more and buy tickets at

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