Zaria Forman, Chasing the Light

What if we memorialized the future sea? Forman's pastels show the breathtaking beauty and solace of arctic purity

The pace of contemporary artwork exploring climate change is dizzying, and nowhere has been drowned in as much attention as the Arctic seas. But somehow, in its ultimate and exacting simplicity, this series of hyper-realistic pastels stands out from a crowded field.

Zaria Forman, a Brooklyn-based artist faced a personal tragedy when her mother passed away a few years ago. As a tribute to her life, Forman decided to fulfill her late mother’s wish by taking an Arctic voyage similar to the one American painter William Bradford took in 1869. Also an artist, her mother originally conceived of the journey after learning of her diagnosis.

In 2012, Forman organized and led a sailing expedition of artists up the northwest coast of Greenland. No stranger to ‘artistic expeditions’, this was another journey in a long list of exotic and remote childhood travels with her family. The accumulation of these experiences has over time deeply influenced her work. “I developed an appreciation for the beauty and vastness of the ever-changing sky and sea,” she said.

It also developed into a unique style of creating art. “When I travel, I take thousands of photographs and make small sketches. Once I am back in the studio, I draw from my memory of the experience, as well as the photographs to create large-scale compositions. I add layers of color onto the paper, smudging everything with my fingers and hand,” she said. Interestingly, her method is uniquely suited for capturing the atmosphere and mood of a landscape in flux.

Forman translates the purity and simplicity of the arctic water into each pastel stroke, creating a mesmerizing composition that appeals to emotion rather than didacticism- a refreshing break from most other climate change based works. "My hope is that these drawings bring awareness, and invite viewers to share the urgency in a hopeful and meaningful way. Art can facilitate a deeper understanding of any crisis, helping us find meaning and optimism" in a challenging world.

While in Greenland, Forman scattered her mother’s ashes amongst crackling ice diamonds and under the green glow of northern lights. She is now a part of the landscape she loved so much. As much as her paintings memorialize the bond between mother and daughter, they offer a mourning solace to the breathtaking beauty of a changing sea.

View Zaria Forman’s latest work in an upcoming exhibition at Carla Massoni Gallery

Part of the proceeds from the sale of Forman's Greenland 2012 drawings go to 350, an organization dedicated to solving the global climate crisis.