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Zachary Aronson Transforms Hotel Lobbies from the Beautiful to the Spectacular


Many artists, no matter how talented they genuinely are, cannot fill a space that is thousands of square feet large. Their visions, while amazing, are best suited for something much smaller, like a canvas or a mid-sized sculpture. Fire artist Zachary Aronson, however, uses his imagination to create works for both, and he is developing a reputation as being a master of turning an empty room into a set that sweeps visitors into a world of magic and introspection.

I met up with Zachary one afternoon at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, to talk to him about his background and how he is able to design installations for big spaces. Zachary often likes to visit hotels like the Beverly Hilton to envision how he could transform their lobbies into artistic sets, and with its capacity to hold 1,000 people, this lobby was an obvious choice for him.

“It’s a beautiful lobby, definitely,” Zachary remarked as we sat down off to the side, out of the way of traffic. “The design is remarkable, and I love how open it is.”

“What do you see when you look at it?” I asked, trying to see the space as he did.

“It’s a bit hard to explain,” he said, studying different parts of the lobby. “One thing I see is connections. I don’t, for example, usually see one big space. Instead, I see it in blocks, how it can be broken down into specific areas, with each one working to create an overall theme. I see ways to use various sections, like that one over there and this one closer to us, to build that theme and create a strong effect. The pillars, the floor, the ceiling – all of it can be used to create a completely different world for visitors, one that will engulf them as soon as they walk into the lobby.”

What that effect is, of course, will depend on the requirements of the hotel. “What I could do here, say, would be determined in part by what the hotel was looking for as well as the leeway I was given to make changes to the floor, ceiling, and walls,” Zachary continued. “I am able to work with the hotel and create an installation that matches the impact they want to make on their guests.”

Zachary originally went to CalArts to get his master’s degree in art but ultimately graduated with a second in theater design. He was inspired to create a massive installation of gigantic portraits on redwood on the school’s front lawn, and he worked with students and faculty from many departments to put together a show that would be talked about for the remainder of his time at CalArts. “On opening night, there were dancers, musicians, and actors who all performed with my installation surrounding them,” Zachary remembered. “This creation led to me being offered a chance to study in the theater department, a very big honor. That’s how I got into set design. I just thrive on having thousands of feet to work with.”

Ultimately, in Zachary’s mind, he is able to construct a world of minute details that build on each other to powerfully impact the viewer. “It is an experience that I offer the visitor,” he says thoughtfully. “They will remember it long after they leave the lobby and get up to their room. That’s exactly what art should do – be so unforgettable that you linger over the memory of it for days or even years to come.”

For more information on Zachary Aronson and his ability to paint portraits using only fire, please see:

Website: www.zaronson.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/zacharyaronson