EARLY YEARS

Self Portrait, 1940 Oil on Canvas, 17" x 19"

Dusti1

My first recollection of wanting to draw was when I was about ten years old. Every night before we children went to bed, my mother would play the piano and we would sing. I remember a particular piece of sheet music that stood on the music stand. On the front cover there was a picture of a lady’s head; it was very beautiful and I wanted to copy it. I must have tried five, ten, fifteen times and each time the drawing was different. I realized then that if I ever wanted to draw, I would have to learn to control my pencil.

I also remember gathering all of the children in the neighborhood to act in plays that I had written. I wrote in “Shakespearean” language in two acts. There was usually a hero, heroine and villain, always with happy endings. I designed and made all of the costumes. One of my favorites was made from the mosquito bar that hung over my bed. It had the effect of gossamer.

Our house was a large old turn of the century home that was on the beach in Biloxi. Mississippi and faced the Gulf of Mexico. We had a reception hall in the front part of the house that served as our stage. The sliding doors that separated this room from our living room served as curtains. The audience sat in the living room. Our sets were always made of freshly chopped brush and living plants. The total effect was one of a forest. I don’t know how my mother had the patience to put up with all of the mess. I guess she was just amused at my energy as I not only wrote the plays, but directed, played the lead and collected the money – five cents for adults and a penny for children.

My love of acting remained throughout high school and continued at Blue Mountain College where I became what they ten called an “expression major.” After college I studied at the Lyceum Arts Conservatory (later Bush Conservatory) on the north side of Chicago. This was during the early 1920’s and the theatre had many traveling road companies. I would ask if they needed extras and often was given small parts or walk-ons. This was how I got my first professional acting job as Aunt Ophelia in the musical comedy "Topsy and Eva".

From 1926 to 1928 I lived at the Rehearsal Club on 52nd St. in New York City. I worked as an actress in the movies that were being produced on Long Island. I was also doing vaudeville, drama and musical comedy in the city.

In 1928 I married Arch Bonge whom I had met at school in Chicago. He was a painter. Because he worked as a doorman at the theater at night and I was working a hectic schedule, we had very little time to be together.

One day we had a quarrel and not time to make up. I painted him a picture and left it in the studio. When he returned and found my painting he was so pleased that he encouraged me to work with him. Arch had studied at the University of Nebraska, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Art Students’ League in New York. He was a very good painter and was great to work with as he had an easy personality that made me feel free to do anything that I wanted.

Dusti2

Lyle's Clubhouse, 1930. Oil on Canvas, 12" x 18"

He felt that the rules laid down by the instructors had always plagued him. He did not want my work to be restricted, but for me to have the freedom to be creative. I was thus encouraged to never go to a “school” but to paint what I felt.

When painting in the studio I tried to break all of the cliches that I had heard by making the bright colors recede and the darker ones come forward – I would paint cucumbers without using any green. My painting was interrupted in 1929 with the birth of our son, Lyle. After a few years we realized that New York was no place in which to rear a child so we moved to Biloxi. We also felt that Arch would have more time for painting.

  Space swallows time
And time bites the tail of space
While sound rides
  the shoulders of her child

I have always had writings that were just lying around. As soon as I wrote something I would disregard it and simply put it away in a drawer or sketchbook. One day I decided that I would collect and type them. As I went over each I was surprised to discover that many paintings implied the very same feelings or emotions that my writings conveyed. I went through my sketchbooks and began organizing them – the paintings with the writings. It was amazing to me that I had said the same thing, years later, in another form.
 
  Each poem, a pain
Each pain, a poem
A pain, a poem, a change.
Two years is tomorrow
Tomorrow is not;
A child is an old man.
Old man, child begot.

Dusti3

Kathryn's Sunflowers, 1944, Oil on masonite, 22" x 28"

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