Linda Abrams, an artist of grace and grit

Janelle Clausen

The home of Linda Abrams, a Lake Success-based artist, is a treasure trove of handmade art. There is tapestry on the walls, small sculptures on the tables and photos of landscapes and people.

Much of it was inspired from her time in South Africa, where she was born.

But the common thread through it all, she said, is an attempt to learn and showcase truth – both about herself and the world.

“You do such strange things that are so instinctive sometimes,” Abrams said, as she pointed to a crack on a small brown statue that corresponded to her own spinal injury. “I think it’s about being in tune.”

But while her house is filled with her work, be it massive three-dimensional quilts or carefully constructed trinkets, Abrams said that art was never easy.

Abrams first came to the United States in 1979, when she was 34 years old. From 1985 to 1990 she worked at the Ruth Leaf Studio doing printmaking. She also worked in freelance fabric design for many years, selling her pieces.

But then somebody told her about a small place in Glen Cove that showed people how to sew. There, she met a friend who taught her quilts weren’t just for beds – they could be artistic.  “She took me and she showed me all these incredible pieces that they [the artists] made,” she said.
In addition, Abrams would own and operate a belt and jewelry business, crafting wearable art that was featured in galleries and boutiques.

Abrams meanwhile worked as a travel agent for Gateway Travel, based in Great Neck, from 1990 to 2000. Then she founded Linda’s Artistic Adventures, her own travel agency that specializes in creating unique, environmentally-minded trips off the beaten path.

“I like to bring something unique and special and creative,” Abrams said.

But while her travels inspired her, she said finding time to pursue art was hard.

“I’m spending a lot of time working and not working as much in my art as I want to. My vow is now to definitely put aside more time,” Abrams said. “But it’s hard. You really have to wear two heads when you’re an artist.”

In addition to the financial challenges, Abrams has often had to overcome physical limits. As a child in South Africa, for example, the natural lefty’s hand was thwacked until she would use her right. Now she is ambidextrous.

But the worst came from an accident in field hockey. A collision led to four fractured vertebrae and a bad knee requiring at least eight surgeries over the decades.

“It was a horrible way to get grit,” Abrams said, “because I was not one of those lucky people where things came easily.”

Abrams said that even gender, to an extent, has been an obstacle.

“For the women to rise to positions of power, look at what they have to confront and go through to get there—not that the others don’t have to” Abrams said. “I think we have to go through double.”

In addition to making art and running her travel business, Abrams also does some teaching at the Great Neck Art School, Great Neck Adult Education Program and Long Island Craft Guild.

In the end, Abrams said that making art comes down to practice and encouragement much more than talent.

“Somebody said to me once I could never be an artist like you,” Abrams said. “And I said ‘you don’t know what work it takes to have that excellent ability.”

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