Chelsea Steinberg-Gay

The Ruthless Cosmopolitan: Apotropaios, 2022, Single channel video with sound, 5’0” © Chelsea Steinberg Gay & Rebecca Pappas

The Ruthless Cosmopolitan: Apotropaios - Opening Sequence Video, 2022, Single channel video with sound, 6’5”

Artist Statement

Chelsea Steinberg Gay  חיה  (she/her/hers) is a sculptor and performance artist whose works look at how displaced or marginalized communities create, alter or mobilize folklore, legends, and the occult as a means of protection and perseverance. At the beating heart of this need to protect is remembrance: individual and collective, personal and cultural memories. A multi-disciplinary artist, her works involve drawing, photography, video, sound and performance, fabricated in whatever materials most appropriately realize each piece. 

Her most recent work The Ruthless Cosmopolitan: Apotropaios, a live ensemble performance starring Steinberg-Gay’s alter-ego drag persona, The Ruthless Cosmopolitan, debuted in November 2022 at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School. Apotropaios combined elements of contemporary dance, hip hop, Yiddishkeit, drag, ballroom, color theory and queer activism to manifest, recognize, and dissolve the restrictive confines surrounding ancient and contemporary gender identities. The work pivoted on the conceptual deconstruction of each of six genders identified in Jewish biblical, mystical, and exegetical sources. 

While remaining rooted in personal memory: the tastes, smells, and sounds of her 1990s Brooklyn Jewish childhood—and personal history: the Eastern European Jewish diaspora, running from the Pale of Settlement to the Borscht Belt, Steinberg Gay’s works ultimately explore how one memory or theme can hold significance for different people. The universal experience of remembering, identifying and protecting, weaves a common thread of similar human needs between seemingly disparate cultures. From the personal to the political, her work strives to incite conversation, to find what she — a queer single Jewish mother of three — has in common with all others seeking to shelter that most precious in their lives, carrying on while looking back, with memory fueling the future.

Artist Bio

Chelsea Steinberg Gay (b. 1986, Brooklyn, NY) is a New York-based sculptor and performance artist. She holds an MA in Jewish Art & Visual Culture from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and a BFA in Sculpture from SUNY Purchase College. Steinberg Gay has performed at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School for Social Research, the Bronx River Arts Center, and at Revolution Books in New York, and at Unity EcoVillage in Kobina Ansa Ghana. Her work has been exhibited in numerous domestic and international shows and private collections.