Undercover Artwork: Finding the Hidden Beauty in Natural Stone Slabs
All photos appear courtesy of Alma Studio.
Many people are drawn to natural stone because of its artistic qualities and characteristics. ALMA Studio takes it to the next level.
Part art gallery and part studio, ALMA Studio uses pure light projections to uncover, accentuate, and highlight art scenes that are hidden within the natural veining of stone slabs, according to Jay Zelingold, director of ALMA Studio. Their work and vision follow the methodology developed by artist Arin Jéda.
Not having any formal art training has become an asset for Zelingold and Jéda. Zelingold believes not having that training allows them to break the mold and develop their untraditional art. “I like to say that art in its usual form is the expression of an artist’s inspiration,” Zelingold says. “ALMA is the inspiration from nature’s expression.”
Choosing the right stone is a rich and varied process for ALMA Studio. Zelingold shares that depending on the stone, they might be drawn to its veining, colors, or the strength of the material. Each slab has personality.
“It’s not just the veins and colors but also the blends of minerals that add textures and layers to the stones,” Zelingold explains. The process the team goes through to choose stones is one they’ve spent years developing and refining. Zelingold says they are still learning every time they look for and discover new materials.
Finding the Right Natural Stone
Zelingold and Jéda usually rely on a slab yard as the starting point in their search, especially ones that catalogue each slab that comes through their doors. They begin by looking for slabs that are beautiful on a surface level. The next step is to look within the veining for the hidden stories and scenes their work highlights. In order to discover these scenes, Zelingold says they must inspect hundreds of random slabs from each and every angle in the hope that at some point they will strike gold and find a hidden scene. “In order to streamline the process, instead of blindly inspecting every slab we can get our hands on, we first choose varieties with the strong potential of having hidden scenes,” he explains. “Specifically, the stones we look for are complex, with depth, dimension, and energetic movement.”
Once they choose a variety they want to work with, the next step is to request high-resolution photos of each individual slab in the company’s inventory so they can study them on either a large 4k monitor or even virtual reality (VR) goggles, which allow them to rotate and zoom in to inspect the minutia of detail within the stones.
Sometimes the natural stone features a design so vividly, there is not much more that needs to be done to elevate the vision. They once discovered a piece that has a remarkable likeness to Bob Marley in a portrait orientation with an intense expression on his face and with his hands in the perfect attitude as one would have while playing a guitar. “In this event, we don’t need any other expansions to the scene – that’s a diamond in itself!” Zelingold says.
Their hunt for beautiful slabs has led them to begin reaching out to quarries and showrooms, including Antolini and United Granite.
Bringing Natural Stone to Life
While the team works with a many different types of natural stone to create their art, there are some specific ones they’re drawn to.
“Fusion quartzite, Blue Louise granite, and Arabascato Orobico marble are great examples of styles that make us feel like kids in a candy store,” Zelingold adds.
Like the stones they use and the artwork they create, the types of clients they serve range from individuals to institutions and commercial spaces. In the short time they’ve been selling their art, within the last 12 months they’ve sold to individuals in the United States and Middle East. Recently, they installed a large slab at a new and upscale steakhouse directly on the Jersey shore, and they’re working on several other private works as well as several high-profile public spaces.
Zelingold and his team are always exploring new ideas and methods such as backlighting onyx and bringing animation into the installations to make them more immersive and multi-sensory.
Not all of their work is large scale. The team also creates smaller pieces with the same process. “Some of the scenes we discover encompass the entirety of the slab, while other scenes only encompass a small portion of the slab,” Zelingold notes. “In such an event, we will cut around the scene so that we are left with just the part of the slab that contains the discovered scene.”
For one piece, a scene of a bird was identified on the upper left corner of a large slab. Rather than use the entire slab, the team cut that scene out of the slab to create the artwork.
“Our larger, full-scale slabs are a natural fit for a large public display that desires to bring a magnetic dynamic that will transform their space,” he explains. “Our smaller works are a truly profound addition to an elevated private space or collection. The integration of art, technology, and a three-dimensional piece of mother nature are virtually unsurpassed in both the art and design worlds.” Their goal is to continue to develop artwork that appeals to both homeowners as well as institutions that can incorporate larger pieces into their spaces.