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Meet Toby Zallman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Toby Zallman.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up in Philadelphia. When I was around 11 years old, I started thinking of myself as an artist. I remember copying one of my mother’s paintings using colored pencils. I loved doing it and wanted to continue making art the rest of my life. My parents nurtured that ambition, sending me to a wonderful, Philadelphia, city-sponsored art camp where I started doing drawing, painting and sculpture. My father taught me how to use wood-working tools and I got to have a little studio in our basement.

I was fortunate to go to a wonderful high school where I could actually major in art, have 2 class periods per day in the art room. Additionally the class was first thing in the morning, so I could arrive early and spend even longer working. Our teacher was very supportive and arranged for trips to museums and even a stained-glass company.
When I was a senior, a group of us took a trip to Italy. It was truly a thrill seeing the art there, especially Michelangelo’s sculptures at the Academia. It was during this time that I developed my first love—sculpture.

My education at Tyler School of Art, where I received my BFA, was a time of great growth, experimentation and exposure to new media and ways of creating art. Unfortunately, the sculpture department, at the time that I went to school, was not the most welcoming place for a young woman, which is a nice way of saying that the professors were often sexist and crude. Because of this, I decided to major in painting and drawing.

I stayed in Philadelphia for one year after college, before moving to Chicago. My paintings started becoming both shaped and more sculptural. This approach continued until roughly 1990 when I decided to stop thinking of myself as a painter and returned to making sculpture. This was a period of great change in my work.

Please tell us about your art.
In my sculpture I have always combined unrelated materials to represent dialectical oppositions such as hard/soft, ephemeral/enduring, open/closed and natural/fabricated. Since 2004 I have been using some form of recycled material as the basis for my pieces.

About 5 years ago I started making drawings again. My process began with photography. I manipulate images on the computer and output them on a laser printer. I then work on them using conventional drawing mediums such as graphite and charcoal. I am excited about developing an interplay between digital and analog processes, expanding what is considered a drawing. The works are large and made up of many individual pieces of paper hung together.

The ubiquitous presence of plastic bags in our lives inspired the most recent sculpture, paintings and drawings. Their usefulness belies the damage that they wreak on the environment. I am intrigued by transforming the bags into multi-layered content. Their allusion to skin and flora and fauna provide a rich range of possibilities.

The newest work integrates the mediums of my sculpture and drawings. I am excited ab0ut drawing in two dimensions and three dimensions, as well as combining the illusion of the drawings with the physical presence of the sculpture.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
For me there has been two kinds of success.
• First, and most important to me, is the success of developing work in the studio and growing as an artist.
• Second is the success which happens when I put my work out into the world.

The most essential characteristic for an artist to have in order to have any kind of success is the ability to continue making the work, though the ups and downs of both life and career. Life is full of changes that both support and impede an art career. It is critical to keep making the work and trying to get the work seen. It is not possible to control what success may nor many not come.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My work can be seen on my website
I will be showing in two shows in the fall.
• A group show at the Hyde Park Art Center, which will be open to the public on August 19th, with a reception on September 15, from 3-5pm.
• A one-person exhibition at Morraine Valley Community College, which opens to the public On November 1 with a reception on November 8, from 10:30am-12pm.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photography by Tom Van Eynde

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Kathleen Adams

    July 10, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Wonderful profile of an inspiring artist!

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