Faculty, Undergraduate Studies
Residency Site: Plainfield VT
Abrams is a teacher, artist, and performer whose work has been featured at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Detroit Institute of the Arts, MI; Jewish Museum, NYC; Bronx Museum of the Arts, NYC; Grand Central Art Center, CA; Art Gallery of Windsor, ONT; The Kitchen, NYC; and WOW Café Theater, NYC. Abrams’ work has been supported by New York Foundation of the Arts, Franklin Furnace, Urban Artist Initiative, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and College Art Association.
MFA in Art, University of California, Irvine
BFA in Art, Queens College (CUNY)
Residencies at Yale Summer School of Painting and Skowhegan School of Art
Areas of Expertise
Performance Art and Video; Critical Theory; Cultural Studies
My performances evolve from social pressures between Jews of European descent and Americans of the African diaspora. My curiosity is sparked by my experiences as an African-American, Jewish, and queer woman in America.
As a visual artist, I studied abstract painting at Queens College (CUNY), where I acquired my BFA. Afterwards, I moved to San Francisco, where I co-directed a performance space. I became immersed in the city’s creative vitality and emerging queer aesthetics, and transitioned fluidly to a live art practice. I later pursued my MFA at UC Irvine as I sought to develop a language that would express the intersecting identities that became the subject of my performances.
I performed as Dew Drop Lady, a caricature of my Brooklyn-based Jewish grandmother. Among a community of Jewish senior citizens, Dew Drop Lady explains that her mother is Jewish and her father is Black. A man asserts that she must adhere to Jewish law and “go according to her mother.” A woman scrutinizes her face and exclaims, “But your features…your features are so beautiful!” Performing Dew Drop Lady in Early Bird gave evidence to the specific teeth of racism that many interracial and light-skinned Blacks are continuously bitten.
In Routine, my performance emerged from the maddening experience of witnessing 19th and 20th century Jewish performers in blackface. I embodied the legacy of these entertainers by performing as a comedian from the “Borscht Belt” in the Catskills, NY. In between my delivery of self-denigrating and misogynistic jokes, I dunked my face and body into a tub of borscht. The beet-based soup, a staple of Jews who vacationed in the Borscht Belt, became the material that accumulated to build a mask on my face. Rather than masquerading as a black minstrel, I used the crimson-colored borscht to assert a Jewish ethnicity – one that cannot be erased; one that is instead located in my biracial body.
Conversation, food, political resistance, jokes, silence, physicality, and dreams have molded my performance practice and research. I invite my advisees to also develop a practice that entails folding research and daily life together. I encourage advisees to build plans that leave enough berth for failure, recognition, and that raise the bar of self-estimation. As an advisor, my goal is to assist advisees as their projects to come to fruition – fully formed and ready to shift the contours of our terrain.
I have worked as an advisor at Goddard College’s MFAIA Program since 2005. I have also taught art at Stamps School of Art, University of Michigan; Queens College (CUNY) and York College (CUNY). I am currently Visiting Faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University.