Torie Zalben

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“One of Zalben’s painterly photographs can feel exactly like a painting, while the next can seem just as strongly a collage of sensations, while a third might cling to given notions of photography.”

— Peter Frank

My work comprises a collage of imagery drawn from nature. My cosmology proposes a nonlinear documentation of sublime moments in everyday existence. In my work one may witness a hummingbird frozen in a moment, an angelic figure looking into the viewer, water defying gravity, and a glimpse into a portal to another dimension. Or one might see the remnants and pieces of other visual elements entirely different. I encourage viewers to locate a completely new image, a hidden figure or face, and thereby expose a new reality within my photographs.

I am inspired by Maya Deren’s analysis of her works and her refusal to interpret her work for the viewer. In her various essays, she writes about her predilection not to talk about what her work means to her personally. I too, apply such an approach; I leave artistic analysis up to the viewer.  I believe in letting the photograph cultivate an air of mystery. As if remembering a dream, I intend for my work to serve as documentation of a collage of images that collectively create meaning and metaphorical representations of one’s subconscious.

I love blurring the mediums of cinematic stills, painting and photography. I am inspired by the films and experimental photography of Jack Smith. In his film Flaming Creatures (1963) he utilizes visual abstraction and in-camera techniques to warp perspectives. Concerning inspiration from his photography, I specifically resonate with his use of saturation and experimental color schemes from his body of work created between 1958 and 1962.


As for painting, I draw inspiration from both Maxfield Parrish and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. My work is heavily influenced by their use of composition, subject matter and their creation of a romantic ambiance that is both felt and sensed. I delight in their visuals and try to recreate such detailed compositions of lush dreamlike environments in my works.


I feel that my artistic approach is especially needed at this time. We have lost our sense of beauty and have lost touch with a spiritual resonance that must return to us for humanity to experience ethereal moments. I want to create a sense of deep meditative awareness. I want to provide a doorway to the soul that can be opened by getting lost in my works. As in a Salvador Dalí painting, one can see the literal imagery and then beyond into the hidden meanings and movements of his compositions. Drawing upon surrealism and romantic genres within the arts, I wish for my work to keep pushing the boundaries in the hope to create a link between the mind and body.