Spring 2022

“If you hold space open to listen and learn about other people’s ideas, experiences, backgrounds and cultures you’ll find there are many things you share. We are all connected to one another in some way and all have something to learn from one another!” 

-Cecile Chong-

Cecile Chong’s interest in art began in a way many LICM visitors will find relatable. Paper, pencil and scissors were her first mediums as she started making paper dolls in her home of Quito, Ecuador at the age of five.  

This mixed-media artist works in a variety of genres, including painting, sculpture and installation.  All of her art features layers, representing complex ideas of culture and identity.  Cecile wants her art to inspire viewers to think about who we are, and how we connect and to find points of cultural overlap and interaction.   

Examples of her encaustic paintings are featured in Holding Space.  Encaustic is a wax-based paint made from beeswax, resin and pigment. Cecile’s paintings contain between 25-30 layers of encaustic, which have materials such as rice paper, pigment from India and Morocco, volcanic ash, metallic leaf, circuit board components and images from vintage children’s books and other sources to build up her paintings.  

Two books with hand painted covers and words written in Chinese to the left of an encaustic painting inspired by that drawing style.

See how Cecile uses vintage children’s books drawings and other found images to layers of her encaustic paintings .

Cecile’s Straingers (a play-on-words between a strainer and a stranger) are a beautiful example of layering and connections to family and culture. She turns household items into bejeweled surfaces as she hand beads repurposed jewelry from family and friends onto kitchen strainers. Her love of beading can be traced to her grandmother, who taught her this artform when she lived with her in Macau as a teenager. The finished pieces reflect the viewer’s image back to them, encouraging reflection on who you are and who are those around you. 

Two metal strainers decorated with various glass beads and rocks. The strainer on the left is decorated with orange, white, green and yellow objects and the strainer on the right is decorated with white and purple objects.

Using the beading techniques she learned from her grandmother, Cecile decorates kitchen strainers to create objects of reflection. Look inside; do you see yourself?

The sculptures in this installation are called guaguas. Guagua is the Quechua word for baby or child. Quechua is a language spoken by indigenous people living in The Andes. The sculptures are inspired by the women carrying swaddled babies on their backs that Cecile saw as a child. A sign of a good swaddle was if the baby could stand straight up on a table. The guaguas represent tabula rasa (blank slate) and our collective humanity.

LICM audiences were introduced to Cecile’s guaguas in “Six Degrees of Separation,” an outdoor installation at the Museum in 2020. It was the first art exhibition when LICM re-opened after the six-month COVID-19 closure.


Multiple colorful sculptures representing swaddled babies on the lawn of LICM.

Cecile's guagua sculptures previously were displayed outdoors in Our Backyard.

Extend Your Art Experience

Each of us has our own experiences and connections to a culture that makes us who we are.  Cecile believes that if we take time to listen to one and understand each other we will find similarities that help us build a strong community.

  • How can you learn more about your family, friends and community members?
  • Be a journalist and interview people! 
  • Choose someone you want to learn more about and ask them about themselves. You can create a book or photo journal of the stories they tell you and share it with them when you’re done.
  • Explore old photo albums and pictures with your relatives.
  • Learn more about their past experiences and the family you share.
  • Share foods that are special to you and your family with your friends.
  • Ask your friends what meals they love to eat that are special for their family. You might find a new favorite food or discover you have similar traditions.

Cecile’s Inspirations

Cecile is inspired by many things when creating her artwork. She has learned about the History of the Silk Road and explored how local artisans work. She has also studied traditional techniques from many cultures and spent time exploring the Ceramics collection at the Hispanic Society of America, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and museums throughout the world. What inspires you?

Meet the Artist 

Cecile was born in Ecuador to Chinese parents and grew up in Quito and Macau. She lives and works in New York. She has received numerous fellowships and residencies including Wave Hill Winter Workspace, the Lower East Side Printshop, MASS MoCA Studios, Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant, The Center for Book Arts, Socrates Sculpture Park and  AIM - Bronx Museum. 

Her public art installation EL DORADO - The New Forty Niners featuring her gaugau sculptures has been installed on Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The piece is currently installed at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Manhattan.
Her work is in the collections of El Museo del Barrio, Museum of Chinese in America, The Center for Book Arts and Citibank Art Advisory. She received an MFA from Parsons The New School for Design in 2008, an MA in education from Hunter College, and a BA in Studio Art from Queens College. Cecile is currently part of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program.