Marian Zazeela (born April 15, 1940) is a light-artist, designer, painter and musician based in New York City.
Life and work
Born to Russian-Jewish parents and raised in the Bronx, Marian Zazeela was educated at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and at Bennington College where she studied with Paul Feeley, Eugene C. Goossen and Tony Smith. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in painting in 1960.
Shortly after graduation, she relocated to New York City where she provided stage design for LeRoi Jones / Amiri Baraka's The System of Dante's Hell and acted and modeled for Jack Smith (appearing in his film Flaming Creatures and photography book The Beautiful Book), before being introduced in 1962 to composer La Monte Young, with whom she has been associated ever since.
During a period of rapid growth in the early 60s, Zazeela not only joined Young's musical group Theatre of Eternal Music as vocalist (which also included, at various times photographer Billy Name, minimalist musician Terry Riley, musician John Cale, video artist and musician Tony Conrad, and poet and musician Angus MacLise), but also produced for them light shows (among the earliest in the form) which may have inspired Andy Warhol and were contemporaneous to the early work of better-known light-artist Dan Flavin. This work derived from her earlier - more expressionistic - calligraphic canvases and drawings, now taking on a psychedelic aspect by mostly using slides of still images and colored gels blended in exceedingly slow dissolves from one to the next creating optical effects associated with Op Art. In 1965, she titled this body of work the Ornamental Lightyears Tracery, and it was subsequently presented at the Museum of Modern Art, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Maeght Foundation, Moderna Museet, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Documenta 5, Haus der Kunst, and Dia Art Foundation, among other galleries and venues.
Over the next 30 years, Zazeela elaborated this work into increasingly environmental and sculptural forms, often incorporating the use of colored-light and colored-shadow, which she titled Dusk Adaptation Environment (installation), Still Light (sculpture), Magenta Day / Magenta Night (installation/sculpture), and, more generally, Light. Obsessed with duration and play upon the senses in saturation, by the late 60s, Zazeela began presenting light-work in collaboration with Young's minimal music in what were envisioned as long-term installations titled Dream Houses. One of them at 275 Church Street, above the couple's loft, has run since the early 90s and is open to the public three days a week.
In 1970, Zazeela began studies in the Kirana school of Hindustani classical music with Pandit Pran Nath, of whom she has been a devoted disciple ever since. (Pandit Pran Nath died in 1996.) She performs occasionally with Young and others. Her "Selected Writings" were published with Young in 1969 and a book on the two of them with writing on Zazeela by Henry Flynt and Catherine Christer Hennix (edited by William Duckworth) was published in 1996 by Bucknell University Press. A monograph of her drawings was published in Germany in three languages ca. 2000.
- LaBelle, Brandon. Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (2006) New York and London: Continuum International Publishing, pp. 73-74
- LaBelle, Brandon. Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (2006) New York and London: Continuum International Publishing, pp. 71 & 73-74
- Marian Zazeela at Mela Foundation
- Images of Zazeela graphic design
- Text and audio interview with La Monte Young
- Zazeela and Young's Selected Writings, pdf file.
- "The Soul of the Word" images and text by Zazeela, from Aspen magazine #9
- 2003 Interview of Zazeela and La Monte Young by Frank Oteri on Dream Houses
- Video clip of Marian Zazeela discussing Pandit Pran Nath
- Photos of Marian Zazeela light performance for a performance of cellist Charles Curtis
- Biography at eNotes
- Biography at Kunst im Regenbogenstadl