Damali Abrams, Untitled (BlissMagicGod), 2016. Untitled (Janelle Monae Basquiat), 2016. Untitled (Rihanna/Oshun), 2016. Mixed media collages on paper. Courtesy of the artist
Damali Abrams
My current body of work is exploring Afrofuturism, mythology and folklore, including depictions of the Divine Feminine, and currently utilizes the figure of the mermaid.

Though most of the mermaids we see in mainstream popular culture are white, there is a rich history of mermaid figures in African diasporan cultures around the world.

There is folklore that the Africans kidnapped into slavery who leapt overboard into the ocean for freedom were transformed into mermaids. An African Goddess of Water called Mami Wata, venerated in different parts of the continent, is also depicted as a mermaid. Yemaya, the Yoruba deity of the ocean, which originated in Nigeria and then spread throughout the diaspora in Afro-Caribbean syncretic religions to North and South America, Europe and the Caribbean, is often depicted as a mermaid figure.

Most personal to my practice is that I grew up hearing stories from my mother about mermaid sightings in Guyana, where my family is from. I learned as an adult that Guyana is known for mermaids, and to this day there are still reports of mermaid sightings in Guyana.

Art for me is a spiritual practice, a form of healing, and a political action.
How do the popular icons in your collages help you perform self-healing? Why are they political, and what do they offer the viewer in this context? How do the popular icons in your collages help you perform self-healing? Why are they political, and what do they offer the viewer in this context? The meaning of celebrity figures in the mermaid collage series differs with each piece. Some figures such as Michael Jackson, Kanye West, and Oprah Winfrey come with their own magic that I like to tap into and magnify. Other figures represent archetypes or specific pop cultural moments.

As a Black woman artist, educator and healer, creating universes by way of art is a political act of embodying the Divine Feminine. Mainstream American society accepts the image of the divine only as male and white. Creating this work feminizes the act of creation, which is a way of both healing from patriarchal programming and taking a radical stance for Black feminism. Our social political financial system, which bell hooks refers to as "imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy," is really just a network of well-organized mythologies. This work both foregrounds and challenges that by highlighting mythologies from the Black diaspora.
I want the volume of my work to be loud. There is music and movement in all of it, even when you can't physically hear it. If it were up to me, my collages would be shown with a musical soundtrack that becomes the ambient sound of the exhibition with no headphones.
Damali Abrams (b. 1979, Jamaica, Queens) earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts (2008), a BFA from New York University (2001), and was a participant in the Whitney Independent Study Program (2016). She has exhibited her work at The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA) Brooklyn, NY; El Museo Del Barrio, New York, NY; Cue Art Foundation, New York, NY; Rush Arts Gallery, New York, NY; Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Franklin Street Works, Stamford, CT; and La Esquina Gallery, Kansas City, MO. Abrams has been a fellow or artist-in-residence in numerous programs including SIPS Robert Blackburn Fellowship (2018); Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (2016); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Process Space Residency (2015); apexart International Fellowship in Seoul, South Korea (2014); The Center for Book Arts (2014); Fresh Milk in Barbados (2013); Groundation Grenada (2013); Su Casa via Queens Council on the Arts (2010); and A.I.R. Gallery Fellowship (2010). She currently lives in Queens Village, Queens.
Identity Milford Graves