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Zaria Forman, PAINTER, USA

Documenting on the damage and danger of Climate Change. Celebrating the Beauty of what we stand to lose,

I hope my drawings can facilitate a deeper understanding of the climate crisis, helping us find meaning and optimism in shifting landscapes

Zaria Forman documents climate change with pastel drawings. She travels to remote regions of the world to collect images and inspiration for her work, which is exhibited worldwide.

She has flown with NASA on several Operation IceBridge missions over Antarctica, Greenland, and Arctic Canada.

She was featured on CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, PBS, and BBC. She delivered a TEDTalk, and spoke at Amazon, Google, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, exhibited in Banksy’s Dismaland, and was the artist-in-residence aboard the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica.

Her works have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, and the Smithsonian Magazine. Zaria currently works and resides in Brooklyn, NY, and is represented by Winston Wächter Fine Art in New York, NY and Seattle, WA.

Zaria in her studio

I grew up in Piermont, NY, about 30 minutes north of New York City. Piermont is a lovely small town right on the Hudson River. It was nice to have a relatively relaxed upbringing but still to have

easy access to the city.

The inspiration for my drawings began in my early childhood, traveling with my family throughout several of the world’s most remote landscapes, which became the subject of my mother's fine art photography. I developed an appreciation for the beauty and vastness of the ever-changing sky and sea. I loved watching a far-off storm on the western desert plains, the monsoon rains of southern India, and the cold arctic light illuminating Greenland's waters.

I have very fond memories of our family trips and consider them a vital part of my upbringing and education. I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to see so much of the world and to learn first- hand about cultures so vastly different from my own. This myriad of experiences instilled in me a love of exploring and a need to continue exploring and learning for the rest of my life.

I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a crayon, so it’s really the years that have trained me. I majored in Studio Art at Skidmore College, graduated in 2005 and have been working as an artist since then. On my way I also taught yoga for ten years. Now I make large scale landscape drawings documenting climate change.

Zaria painting the Lindblad Cove, Antarctic

My mother, Rena Bass Forman, dedicated her life to photographing the most remote regions of the earth. Her aesthetic has significantly influenced my work, or perhaps it is simply in my genes! The cold and isolated landscape of the Arctic consumed her interest from 2001 until her passing in 2011.

She always said that she had been a polar bear in a past life, and watching her spend endless hours in the frigid winds, patiently and happily waiting for the moment when the light was right, gave me no doubts that this was true! She taught me the importance of loving what you do and carrying out projects full force, no matter what obstacles lie in the way.

Painting of the Weddel Sea

I travel to remote regions of the world to collect images and inspiration for my work. Travel is necessary for my art and life experiences—one cannot exist without the other.

NASA invited me to join their Operation IceBridge, an airborne science mission that has been mapping ice changes at both poles for the past decade. I tagged along with them in the fall of 2016 on flights over Antarctica, and then again in the spring of 2017 over Greenland and parts of Arctic Canada. Over the span of 12-hour flights, we flew only 1,500 feet above glaciers, sea ice, and mountain ranges.

I was privileged to witness an entirely new perspective of these icy environments, and one that few people have ever seen. For most of us, the polar ice sheets are just giant white spots on a map. (And indeed, they sometimes look like that from the air!). But the IceBridge scientists and engineers know that there’s rapid change occurring beneath the surface—a complex interplay of freshwater rivers, valleys of bedrock, and warmer ocean waters eating away at glaciers from beneath.

Zaria painting the Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina.

I’ve been documenting this melt in the polar regions for the past 13 years, and most recently at the third largest fresh water supply in the world (surpassed only by the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets), the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Standing in front of Perito Moreno glacier was humbling. Remote landscapes never cease to amaze me, but what made my experience with Perito Moreno unique was the infrastructure and topography at it’s face that made it the most accessible glacier I’ve seen.

Directly across from the front of the glacier, where cracks and groans sound every few seconds and massive ice chunks calve into the lake almost constantly, is a peninsula I traversed for hours. Normally the dangers of being that close to a glacier face are too great a risk since calving events are unpredictable and potentially deadly. But the peninsula provides protection and up-close access, granting dynamic view of the glacier’s seracs - towering, glowing blue ice chunks reflecting and refracting light in infinite ways as I shifted my angle between the sun and the ice.

Perito Moreno was actually one of the few glaciers in the world that was still growing, until recently. The melting glacier ice worldwide has frightening potential consequences for the global climate system. James Hansen, the legendary NASA scientist who warned Congress about climate change back in 1988, predicts that if we don’t cut carbon dioxide emissions, melting ice will raise sea levels by six to fifteen feet this century.

Artists play a critical role in communicating climate change, which is arguably the most important challenge we face as a global community. I have dedicated my career to translating and illuminating scientists’ warnings and statistics through an accessible medium, one that moves us in a way that statistics may not.

Psychology tells us that humans take action and make decisions based on emotion above all else. Studies have shown that art can impact our emotions more effectively than a scary news report. My drawings explore moments of transition, turbulence, and tranquility in the landscape, allowing viewers to emotionally connect with a place they may never have the chance to visit. If people can experience the sublimity of these landscapes, perhaps they will be inspired to protect and preserve them.

Zaria painting Whale Bay

I hope my drawings can facilitate a deeper understanding of the climate crisis, helping us find meaning and optimism in shifting landscapes. One of the many gifts my mother gave me was the ability to focus on the positive, rather than dwell in the negative. I would like to continue to spread the word about climate change and share my work with as many people as possible.

Art is my process, and I live it every day. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I work in the studio every day, but my “down” time is also fuel and inspiration for my process. I try to be on, in, or in sight of water as much as possible.

As an artist, I am a visual person, so I fill my home with “visual nutrition,” things I enjoy looking at and living with. I think it’s important for all of us to find what inspires us most, and figure out a way of incorporating it into daily life. It’s a constant practice, though—like yoga and art; there is never a point of “arrival.” Instead, there is always more to learn and room for growth.

Zaria painting Disco Bay

I am so happy to count Zaria amongst our CHANGE MAKERS, as she is an exceptional artist with an important mission: "To Celebrate the Beauty of what we stand to lose".

I invite you to follow Zaria's on:​ | Instagram: @zarialynn | Twitter: @ZariaForman | Facebook: @ZariaForman

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