Torie Zalben Makes Us Lose All Sense In Her Kaleidoscopic Work

Originally appears in Amadeus Magazine April 2018. Photo by Nathalia Bas-Tzion Beahan

Torie Zalben Makes Us Lose All Sense In Her Kaleidoscopic Work

In the realm of physical art, most tends to be fairly self explanatory. Artists’ messages are oftentimes clear, and it only takes a glance in a gallery to at least get a feel for what is being portrayed. Occasionally, though, some pieces stop us in our tracks, and cause us to wonder for a long while. They reach inside of us and stir something that’s hardly ever been touched. This is what it feels like to view a piece of Los Angeles-based artist Torie Zalben’s work.

Zalben does not simply create images—in fact, she is capable of opening portals to different states of consciousness. Through her photographs, videos, and performance pieces, Zalben transmits her own feelings concerning existence and the world beyond. Her creations are incredibly captivating in nature, with an almost hallucinogenic feel to them.

“I aim for my audience to lose sense of time and space and enter a meditative state,” Zalben told us. “I hope for my viewers to look deeper into my works and find hidden faces, images and create their own meanings to the photographs.”

The latest collection by Zalben is comprised of multimedia photographs, with heavily blurred edges amongst bright, fragmented pieces of the natural world. She is often inspired by the mineral and plant kingdoms, and symbolism in mysticism and Egyptology. Also dramatically influential in her work is Zalben’s physical location—situated between Venice Beach and Santa Monica, she loves studying how the ocean waves move, and the gradient color scales of the sunsets. For her, beach culture is a fascinating force in her creative process.

One of her most stand-out videos, Pearl’s Awakening, exhibits a young woman waking from sleep in multiple settings, only a few of which are at all sensical. Being a 360° short film, fuzzed images and an unusual frame are common features contributing to the video’s thought provoking and assertively confused feel. It has a surreal, romantic ambiance portraying transition from one state of consciousness to another. It allows us to contemplate our own similar day-to-day experiences.

Zalben created the piece for her thesis study at New York University. The project, inspired by muse and avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren, led Zalben to many other artists who have personally touched her life in a magical way that defies any explanation.

“Paz de la Huerta, Mara Keeley Breene, Julia Sinelnikova, Nana Ghana, Ellen Houlihan, and Nathalia Bas-Tzion Beahan have given me an understanding towards my identity as a female artist in this day and age. These women express themselves fully, have been to hell and back and are here to tell their story of being a light bearer in a sea of darkness,” Zalben explained.

Having been impassioned by way of so many fellow artists, Torie places a huge importance on participating in the world of arts education. As a result of Pearl’s Awakening, she was asked to help create the CalArts Immersion group, a program exploring technological approaches in immersive cinema.

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