Columbia University in the City of New York


How Do You Measure Pleasure? by Damali Abrams, on display in the Education Lab through December 2023 (Credit: Sirin Samman).

How Do You Measure Pleasure?

We’ve rolled out our new art commission in the Zuckerman Institute’s Education Lab on 129th Street: a striking 13.5-foot-long collage now hanging near the entrance. How Do You Measure Pleasure? is by artist and educator Damali Abrams, also known as the Glitter Priestess. Damali was particularly inspired by the spectrograms and histograms–special charts and graphs–that she encountered during conversation with ZI’s scientists


The work in progress (Credit: Damali Abrams).


Damali focuses on art as a spiritual process, and she thinks of art as a healing tool. Too often, the stories we hear about Black people and Black women are about trauma and tragedies. “We need a full range of human experience,” says the artist, and she wanted to focus on pleasure and joy. “I’m a maximalist in my work.” She wanted the piece to be “the brightest, most sparkly, most pleasurable thing” she had ever made.


The artist Damali Abrams (right) with ZI Director of Public Programs Alissa Mayers (Credit: Sirin Sannam)


How Do You Measure Pleasure? is a mixed media piece that incorporates paint, glitter, sequins, fabric, and leather. “I’m hoping that when people see it, they will smile… Even if for just one second people can be removed from the stress of daily life… Especially after these past few years that we’ve been living in the pandemic…


Detail of How Do You Measure Pleasure? (Credit: Damali Abrams).


Damali is grateful for the generosity of all the scientists she met with: Vikram GadagkarIshmail Abdus-Saboor, Bianca Jones Marlin, Matthew Sachs, Kerel Francis, and Erica Rodriguez. “I was really excited for the opportunity to see the way that scientists think, the way that they work, and there actually was a lot of creativity in what they were doing as well.” She also notes that artists and scientists both aim to create opportunities for people to heal in community.


The community was invited to an art opening in January 2023 (Credit: Sirin Samman).

The collage will be on display near the entrance to the Education Lab in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center through the end of the year. We invite passersby to come and view the piece, which is clearly visible from street level. 


DAMALI’s work advances the mission of the Zuckerman Institute to help make science more accessible and interdisciplinary by breaking out from the expectations of traditional scientific programming.

The work on display in the Education Lab (Credit: Sirin Samman).