BE BEAST
NOVEMBER 24, 2023 - JANUARY 28, 2024

  • Opening Reception / Meet the Artist: Friday, December 1 / 5-8pm
  • Free and open to the public
  • Opening Reception coincides with Art Round Town.* Additional Art Round Town nights: Friday, January 5. 5-8pm.


Artist Statement:

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the world’s oldest global organization overseeing the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. In 1964, the IUCN established the Red List of Threatened Species as a critical indicator of the health of the planet’s biodiversity. Half a century later, the list grows longer instead of shorter; at the current progression, 50% of animal species worldwide is heading towards extinction by 2050. Because we share ecosystems with these animals (and plants), our quality of life is linked to and dependent upon them.

Humans are not separated entities in the natural order. Philosophers describe this belief as exceptionalism, which places humans as categorically different from all other animals by their rationality and their ability to manipulate the world. From a theological perspective, this power comes from the notion that humans are the product of special creation by God. However, even in the biblical narrative, God entrusts humans to steward the created world—not to dominate it, much less to destroy it. It is important to reconsider humanity’s role on earth; only when we see ourselves as essentially entangled within the planet’s ecosystem, we will see the urgency of the crisis at hand.

In the US alone, one in four animal species is under threat, from the tiny bee to the massive manatee. And yet, the Trump Administration rolled back environmental policies—for instance, by limiting federal funding to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). My body of work highlights local and non-local species at risk. This is a global issue, which is reflected by the animals in the series. They are portrayed as majestic and glorified creatures, as if they belong on the cover of magazines. Graphite and colored pencils allowed me to emulate the alluring and tantalizing style of corporate advertisement. Following one graphic marketing technique, I used black and white as a set up for color to highlight products for consumption, lack of natural habitats, or conceptual props.

The uncanny aspect of the collection comes in the reversal of roles. In my surreal drawings endangered animals take human shape and are empowered as the dominant species in a hierarchical fictional reality. Accordingly, they are entitled to treat human beings as we treat them in the real world. By pushing the imagery to foster an emotional response, my ultimate interest is to explore the way humans handle animals and shape their meaning. The carefully rendered, enticing and whimsical imagery is an entry point to address the horror of animals disappearing from the face of the earth. The beauty of animals needs to be protected. Their beauty juxtaposes the ugliness of the human exploitation of the planet’s resources, of which animals are an integral part.

If we see ourselves as intrinsic members of the earth’s biodiverse ecosystem, then we have to accept our participation in this crisis. Certainly, thousands of species are going extinct because of human activities, but many are disappearing from a lack of attention. This body of work attempts to shine a light onto animal extinction so that many species are not lost to the darkness. It is then up to the viewer to make a change, first by gaining awareness about how our habits and choices impact the world around us and all its creatures, and secondly by acting upon this as individuals and as a society.

Sammy Chong bio:

Sammy Chong is a first-generation Ecuadorian from Guayaquil. He comes from a large artistic family of Chinese descent. In his early adulthood, Chong began a career in Graphic Design, working in an international advertising firm. However, after a near-fatal car accident, he became more aware of, and sensitive to, larger transcendental issues.

Chong began his higher education at Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador, and completed his undergraduate degree at Universidad Javeriana, Bogata, Colombia. Chong pursued his transcendental interests at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Cambridge, earning a Master’s degree. His formal art studies began at the Massachusetts College of Art, and later he received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Tufts University/School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2012).

The following are recent solo exhibitions of Chong’s work: “[UN]visibles”, Atlantic Gallery, New York, NY” (2018); “Them”, 3S Artspace, Portsmouth, NH (2018); “The Twelve”, Pelham Arts Center, Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY (2017); “Minos”, Level One Gallery, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA (2016); “Tales of [dis]Engagement”, Carney Gallery, Regis College, Weston, MA (2015); “Layered Effects”, Krause Gallery, Providence, RI (2014); “Ex Situ”, ArtSpace Gallery, Maynard (2014).

A selected list of recent group exhibitions in which his work was shown includes: “Across Cultures”, Mosesian Center for the Arts, Watertown, MA (2022); “New England Now: People”, Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT (2021); “Totems”, Beacon Gallery, Boston, MA (2020); “13th Annual Foundation Show”, PAC Mill Gallery, Pawtucket, RI (2020); “We The People”, Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA (2019); “Facing the Wall”, VETS Gallery, Providence, RI (2018); “The Gig Economy: Depictions of Life and Responses to Work in the Digital Bazaar”, Mills Gallery, Boston, MA (2018); “The Future of Work”, Atlantic Wharf Gallery, Boston, MA (2018); “Space Invaders”, Fountain Street Gallery, Boston, MA (2018); “Public Domains”, Chazan Gallery, Providence, RI (2017).

Chong’s Artist Residency Programs include ChaNorth, Pine Plains, NY (2020) and Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT (2019). Chong is the recipient of the following honors and awards: Winner, “Who.Are.You?: (Re)Presentation and Challenge”, Atlantic Gallery, New York, NY (2018); Winner, “The Biennial 2017 Alexander Rutsch Award for Painting”, Pelham Art Center, NY (2017).

Chong’s current professional activities include a position as an Assistant Professor in the Fine Arts Department at Boston College. He teaches Figure Drawing, Portraiture, Painting, and Drawing Foundations, among other courses. He keeps an art studio in Framingham, MA.

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*Art 'Round Town is a gallery walk in Portsmouth on the first Friday of each month.

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Stay connected to the Gallery from home: view the virtual Gallery!

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