Danielle Abrams, 54, multidisciplinary artist
Multidisciplinary artist and professor Danielle Abrams, who worked in performance, installation, drawing and collage, and who taught at Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Arts, passed away on Thursday, April 21, 2022, at the age of 54. The child of an African American father and Jewish mother, Abrams’ early work drew from autobiographical material based on her family’s mixed heritage. Racism, antisemitism, blackface, the “borscht belt” and segregation were themes that reoccurred through the richly drawn, often humorous characters Abrams scripted and performed.
Abrams spent her 20s living and performing in the San Francisco art scene, a robust location of LGBTQIA activism and creativity. Abrams wrote, embodied and performed a cast of characters using her body and words to express the collision of seemingly disparate viewpoints and cultures throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
In New York City, Abrams was supported by Franklin Furnace and performed in art spaces and experimental theaters such as The Kitchen, La Mama, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Dixon Place, and Joe’s Pub.
Community-based research was an integral part of Abrams’ practice. In the multi-ethnic and mixed-race context of the city of New Orleans, Abrams led workshops for seniors, who created stories and paintings about their memories of the once-segregated Lincoln Beach on Lake Pontchartrain. The seniors’ stories were materialized through Abrams’ writing and informed her piece “Lincoln Gave us a Beach” and her recent body of work.
The systematic racial segregation of recreation in the U.S. is the subject of her final exhibitions created with collaborators Mary Ellen Strom and Alonso Nichols. “Watermark” at Stable Arts in Washington, D.C. and “Rights Along the Shore” at the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts both included video installations, photographic portraits and large graphic pieces that foreground the voices of local Black activists who have worked for rights of African American people to have access to safe and enjoyable recreational spaces.
Danielle Abrams was born on March 30, 1968, grew up in Flushing, New York, and attended Queens College and graduate school at the University of California, Irvine.
Abrams taught at the Stamps School of Art, University of Michigan, at her alma mater Queens College, and at York College, part of the City University of New York. From 2014 until her passing, she was a professor of the practice in performance at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in Boston, where she was a beloved faculty member and teacher.
Danielle Abrams is survived by her mother and father, Stephanie and Eddie Abrams, sister Lauren Abrams, and brother-in-law Israel Zapata. She leaves behind a large loving community of colleagues, students, friends, relatives and chosen family.