"The beer helps," he said laughing. Zalben stuck a sign that says "beer donations" over a donations box outside the window, and people have been obliging.
The artist has been bending wire for years. His friend and local artist, Adriana Carvahalo, had crafted a tiny flower out and Zalben was intrigued. He picked up a piece, made a shape and was hooked.
"I liked the way the wire bent," he said. "I could make something quickly."
But Zalben believes the medium makes sense for his personality.
"As you dwell on being an artist you start fleshing out who you are and what you do," he said.
"I’m very impatient and it just sort of fit my character."
This is not the first time he has incorporated words into his art. For the past couple of years, Zalben has used wire to turn his poetry into art pieces. It has been more taxing on him than his other wire art, which features every day objects like light bulbs and beds.
"There’s a lot more work that goes into it," he said. "I don’t want to write about something primitive."
He said he is inspired by his sense of humor, innocence and sexuality and tries to combine the emotions in all his pieces. He also takes inspiration from other people.
"You just never know when somebody has something to say or an idea that inspires you," Zalben said.
One of his favorite moments came while talking to the dental hygienist, who told him, "Control tongue to control your fate." Zalben went back home and turned it into a wire piece.
"A muse can be right in front of you and you don’t know it," he said.
The artist, who has lived in Miami for 11 years, said he finds the city’s diverse art scene more nurturing than anywhere else he has lived.
"It’s more open to any kind of art form," Zalben said. "I was in Chicago for many years and a lot of the worked that I would do wouldn’t really fit into that environment."
Before Chicago, Zalben’s went to school for photography in Boston. Though he no longer photographs professionally, he has had people who visit his studio tell him they see it come through in his work.
"Through other people I’ve learned that there really is a connection between photography and what I’m doing today," Zalben said.
But he does not limit himself to wire. Zalben also makes paintings, often on a canvas of pieced-together Altoid tins. Inside each tin he writes a story. Because they must be installed piece-by-piece, buyers often discover the writing while they hang the tins.
"People don’t know it and as they’re installing the tins one at a time they start reading it and they see what it’s all about," he said.
But he says his work all comes to the same point. For Zalben, it boils down to the focus of his current installation: love.
“It’s cliché, but The Beatles said ‘all you need is love,’” Zalben said. “When you do what you love, you do it well. I think that’s what they meant.”