Human-induced climate change, which certain politicians deny and many of us choose to ignore, threatens the survival of every species on Earth. If emissions continue at their current rate, scientists anticipate widespread coastal land loss, agricultural and economic collapse, food and water shortages, frequent and severe natural disasters, and unprecedented refugee crises. For the third installment of our series T Agitprop, we asked 12 contemporary artists, including Alexis Rockman, Mel Chin, Erin Jane Nelson and the members of the collective Dear Climate, to contribute works, most of them new and created exclusively for T, in response to this global emergency. Here are their pieces and statements.
Born in South Natick, Mass., in 1982.
“Arctic Ocean” is a pastel drawing on paper that depicts an aerial view of summer sea ice off the northwest coast of Ellesmere Island, Canada. The inspiration for the piece came from several flights I took with IceBridge, a NASA operation that has been mapping the ice at both poles for over a decade. The data that IceBridge collects provides crucial information on how our polar regions are responding to climate change, helping scientists to predict the effects ice melt will have on rising sea levels and the global climate system.
My work, including “Arctic Ocean,” aims to illuminate this data through a medium that can move us in a way that statistics cannot. The remote regions I draw are the keystones of climate change but are inaccessible to most people. I draw as much precise detail as I can in order to transport the viewer to a place that is otherwise distant and abstract. I convey the beauty of these vulnerable landscapes, as opposed to their devastation, to inspire viewers to help protect and preserve them.
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On screen, many of artist Zaria Forman’s glacial drawings could pass for photographs. But in person, their scale alone — on average, 5 feet by 7.5 feet— makes you feel you’re floating by an iceberg at close range.
Forman first traveled to remote, icy regions with her mother, the fine art photographer Rena Bass Forman, who died in 2011 at age 57. The next year, Forman led anexpedition to Greenlandin her honor. And in 2015, she sailed the Antarctic coast on the National Geographic Explorer, where she recorded an audio of sea ice melting, releasing trapped air with percussive pops and clicks. This, along with a video piece and her drawings, will be in a new solo show atWinston Wächter’s Seattle gallery, “Antarctica,” beginning Saturday.
For Forman, the ice tells an urgent story. At 34, she has dedicated her career to making people care about climate change, rendering these fragile, rarely seen ice sheets with the singularity of portraits. She is also aTED speakerand, later this month, will speak about her work to Google and NASA, with whom she has twice flown on theOperation IceBridge, whose scientists measure the thickness of sea ice by plane. Forman invites us to make a more personal connection. “These landscapes are so dear to my heart,” she says. — ABBY RABINOWITZ