Whitehot Magazine

Interview with Torie Zalben

Torie Zalben, GAZE, high-density polyethylene cast, infinity lights. Sculpture, fabrication by Sarah Sitkin, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

By JAKOB DWIGHT, April 2021

Whitehot Magazine's ArtTech Specialist and multimedia artist Jakob Dwight first met Torie in the summer of 2014 during the first "art meets fulldome (360-degree viewing) residency" at the groundbreaking Vortex Immersion Media Dome and Residency in LA. Dwight has been following her work and trajectory through the years and recently reached out to Torie to check in and see what her public art collective TZProjects would be up for the coming year. 

Torie Zalben is a Los Angeles based artist. Her practice involves video, photography, lenticular, and varied media. She explores states of conscious awareness with a focus on fantasy and interdimensional worlds within worlds. Her mix of surrealism and hyperreality scapes infuse into a cosmology of saturated colors and dream-like visuals drawing inspiration from the works of interdisciplinary artists Jack Smith and Maya Deren.   

JAKOB DWIGHT: Can you describe your artistic process? 

TORIE ZALBENI tend to work in intense, concentrated bursts, then take a hiatus from the work to reflect and interrogate the ideas that I'm exploring or expose myself to other artists’ work. This separation time is often as important as the time that I spend making the work.  Sometimes I spend it reading and ruminating about current and future series.  I ultimately reflect on ways that I can refine the kinks in my ideation.  

I also, paradoxically, thrive in the anxiety of not creating, of being an observer, a sponge, of letting my emotions reach a boiling point, until I become so uncomfortable that the only logical action is for me to channel my creative energy into a new body of work. 

Whether it's film, photography, sculpture, my work inevitably involves outside fabrication. Additionally, with each new body of work, I strive to embrace some form of technology.  

Since my educational background is in film and video art, the process of assembling a team that helps facilitate, harness and galvanize my ideas is inevitably part of the process and often the end result exceeds my initial conceptualization.

. Torie Zalben, SALVATOR MUNDI. Courtesy of the artist

JD: How has growing up in LA impacted your work?

TZGrowing up as a 4th generation Angeleno in such a vast cultural landscape exposed me to artistic institutions such as MOCA, REDCAT, LACMA, LACE, The Getty, The Norton Simon, The Huntington, etc. sparked my career choice to be an artist from a very young age.   

LA is definitely having a moment and I think there is such a wonderful infusion of international artists that have greatly added to the culture-scape and of course, the confluence of media and talent in this city.  

I love how one is constantly bombarded by LA’s popular culture and at the very epicenter of artists as diverse as Betye Saar, Alexis Smith, Paul McCarthy, Ed Ruscha, Charles Gaines, Mark Bradford, late Charles White, late John Bladessari, etc. I am constantly inspired to add to the continuing narrative and artistic history of this city.

JD: What do you look forward to most when our lives return to a sense of normalcy?

TZ: I miss the dialectic of making art and being exposed to other artists and their work. I have missed the ability to spontaneously go to a museum or gallery or meet up with someone in a large group setting.  Adapting to online culture has been a challenge since there’s an alchemy of creative energy being in another person’s presence that other means of communication cannot replicate or capture.

All that said, we must take note that LA’s cultural institutions are slowly reopening and that gives me a renewed sense of hope towards the transition away from the virtual and back into the tangible world. 

JD: What are the things you would like to see continue when our collective social and art lives get back settled?

TZI feel that, given our new modalities of accessibility during these isolating times, we are slowly becoming adaptable to what seemed to be this inaccessible bubble. 

A new community is forming and there appears to be innovative ways of buying, selling, networking and promoting one’s work beyond the self.  We are here now in this new reality and I see it as a time of adaptability and positive adversity where change is the only option.

I would like to acknowledge Whitehot’s fantastic podcast this past March, featuring you (Jakob Dwight), artist Justin Aversano alongside Whitehot’s publisher Noah Becker. You each were able to clearly articulate the debate surrounding NFTs, the “future”of art and if this is all just a passing trend. 

Torie Zalben, Barbie House, Lenticular Photograph Lightbox, 4 x 6 ft. 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

JD: As for what’s next? Are you going to curate a third TZ Projects show?

TZMy intent, life and the alchemy of the creative process could always upend this, but at this point I do not see myself creating spectacles - at least in the near-term.

During the height of both waves of the virus in 2020, my producer Liana Weston and myself created a platform for people in the community to gather and share imagery via a window display (of high resolution images of varied media in a slideshow format) - be it the former Taschen gallery space off Beverly Blvd. or the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. It was a very historical time for art in Los Angeles and the world at large when there was little to no in-person access to culture. We were fortunate enough to be featured in Vogue and considered one the highlighted shows of the pandemic. 

More info: www.tzprojects.org + @TZProjects.  

Through my network, I look forward to participating and facilitating group shows and of course excited about the emergence of new platforms and modes of displaying art. There are a few things in the works, and the TZ Projects’ platform is constantly evolving as is this changing world. You may already have attended the third show, disguised as another name or collective, and have never known it. I am excited for the incognito approach and meeting adaptable groups of artists, curators, cultural institutions and supporters to foster arts and culture in nontraditional ways in a more behind-the-scenes approach.  

I will say, one of the unanticipated byproducts of the lockdown, is that it forced the art wolrd to invent new ways to foster community and it certainly has allowed them to reach an audience much greater than before.  For instance, I recently attended a virtual talk at the Whitney for Salman Toor’s first solo exhibition, How Will I Know, curated by Christopher Y. Lew.  I was sharing that experience with others around the world, in a virtual sense, yet in direct conversation with the artist and the curator, it was really moving.  WM 



Jakob Dwight

Originally trained as a painter, US born and based artist Jakob Dwight was drawn to electronic art and software as an opportunity to explore the transformative impact of the electronic medium on painting, the painterly perspective and the art experience itself.  

Dwight’s work has been presented internationally, including in Amsterdam, Paris, Los Angeles, Berlin, Seattle, Atlanta, Vienna, New York and online with Sedition. He was commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum to create new work for their Disguise: Masks and Global African Art which traveled to the UCLA's Fowler Museum in 2015 and Brooklyn Museum, New York in April 2016.

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