Tori Ralston

Tori Ralston                                          home    about   projects   video   topo   cv   teaching   contact


Download the artist's statement

At first glance, I appear to be a sculptor of puppets. I am also an installation artist and a maker of large-scale spatial designs. In every body of work the prevailing concern is one of constructing dynamic, interactive spaces laying in wait to be activated by a psychological tension brought to the space by the performers and viewers.

Within the spaces, the observer enters a dreamlike fantasy world where they can engage directly with fabricated materials and staged dramas in real space and time. Highly theatrical in their construction, the spaces hold layered images fabricated out of cast bronze, wood, fabric, photographic projections, mirror, organic materials, text and audio. As in the performance art pieces, the spatial designs explore a place where the human dilemma of being with oneself while also being with the other is at the center. They examine the challenge of formulating a compassionate understanding of the human condition while inhabiting one’s own vulnerability within that condition. The social spaces we share intersect with our interior spaces in which we store our most beloved beliefs. This intersection creates tension, passion, and sometimes repression as we navigate through these two worlds. I strive to create spaces through installation and performance in which one can experience a more meaningful connection with others as well as a deeper understanding of one’s internal world.

“Body Memory” is a recent installation investigating how we hold memory in our bodies and how that memory affects our interactions with others. In “Is It OK For Me To Be Here, fables from the contemporary south,” the space is filled with collected stories about individual experiences of belonging in the south. These personal stories shape a pathway through the installation space. Emerging from within is a curing barn of narratives about racism, sexism, ageism, and regionalism. The barn itself houses a musical element created from a Jim Crow era song called “Jump Jim Crow.” Throughout the exhibit, the space continues to evolve, as spectators are encouraged to add their own text. The accumulation of stories prolongs the element of interaction.

“Cultivating The Empty Garden,” explores the conversions of westerners to Buddhism, particularly those who became Buddhist monks or nuns in the Tibetan tradition. My curiosity about these conversions led me to several international Buddhist festivals, where I interviewed ordained people about their conversion experiences, creating an audio piece of their voices. The audio emanates from within twenty foot fabricated roses representing the six perfections of Buddhism. I am in the planning process for a new installation influenced by years of working with youth as an arts specialist in the North Carolina mental health system. It’s titled “7 ˝ Miles of Hallway,” the length of hallway in John Umstead Psychiatric Hospital. This installation will be envisioned as a three dimensional game in which the viewer physically plays the game by taking on the identity of a youth seeking to win a “normal” life by getting out of the system.

As an artist, I am a collector of stories and a creator of images associated with those stories. I strive to form interactive spaces and performances that reconnect individuals to a multi-dimensional, interior moment of reflection about their roles and responsibilities in their communities. My curiosity about the intersection between personal and public spaces often takes me out of the studio to discover themes and ideas that shape my own process of relating, belonging, and being.

Tori Ralston
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Tori Ralston ©2015