Cecile Chong

Cecile Chong (born in Ecuador) is a multimedia artist currently residing in New York. She received an MFA from Parsons The New School for Design. She has received fellowships and residencies including BRIC Media Arts, the Joan Mitchell Center, MASS MoCA Studios, Socrates Sculpture Park, and many more. Her work has been exhibited at Sugar Hill Children’s Museum, Smack Mellon, El Museo del Barrio, The Bronx Museum of Arts, the Museum of Chinese in America, and many more.
April 6, 2022
Tell us about your practice.
I’m a multimedia artist based in New York. I create paintings, sculptures, installations, and videos, layering materials, identities, histories, and languages. My work addresses ideas of cultural interaction and interpretation, as well as the commonalities that we share in our relationship to nature and to each other. I was born in Ecuador to Chinese parents and grew up in Quito and Macau.
Your swaddled guagua (Quechua for baby) sculptures have been shared in many different settings, sizes, and capacities throughout your practice. What is your process for reimagining these figures for each iteration and new location?
My swaddled guagua sculptures represent tabula rasa and humanity, our common roots prior to being attached to a culture. These sculptures are almost alive to me. I imagine them in a place and adjust their presence to be in tune conceptually or aesthetically with their surroundings. I usually study the location and make site-specific choices, many times informed by the history of the place.
The hand-beaded works of your Straingers series contain small mirrored surfaces. What do you hope for viewers to find or confront in their interaction with these reflections?
The Straingers (a play-on-words between a strainer and a stranger) is an on-going series of beaded works that look like masks. Instead of wearing them, the viewers will see themselves in the small mirrors. I hope that after assuming that the masks belong to someone else when confronted with their own reflections, they will see themselves armored in a new outer layer.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I’ve been looking at ivory and tagua (also known as vegetable ivory or ivory nut), and how material is linked to power and politics. There is a “mantón” (shawl) with ivory faces in the collection at the Hispanic Society that I cannot stop thinking about. We believe it was made in China and was exported to Spain via the Manila Galleon. It features compositions of people interacting with nature.
What is next for you?
I received a NYSCA grant this year and I’m looking forward to collaborating with Michael Paul Britto to create a stop motion animation video as part of my fellowship as a Vilcek Artist Research Fellow at the Hispanic Society.

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