Zaria Forman: Changing the Landscape of Climate Change
Her pieces are a dynamic addition to any wall space, spreading awareness of a greater global issue while immersing the viewer in an undeniable natural tranquility. There is something simultaneously terrifying and comforting about the natural spectacles Zaria has so uniquely captured.
ArtStar got the chance to chat with Zaria about her art, her travels, and her overall passion to counter climate change.
AS: Your landscape pieces are breathtaking. They seem to echo such strong emotion. What are you trying to communicate to your audience?
ZF: My most recent drawings document Earth’s shifting landscape and the effects of progressive climate change. I explore moments of transition, turbulence and tranquility in the landscape. I am grateful to have the opportunity to visit some of the world's most remote regions, and enjoy the challenge of conveying their beauty. Perhaps if people can experience these sublime landscapes, they will be inspired to protect and preserve them.
AS: The colors in your pieces are spell bounding and border on fantastical. What is your process when considering the range of colors to use?
ZF: I aim to portray the landscape as honestly as I can. Choosing colors is often challenging, as I endeavor to authentically represent vistas that often seem other-worldly. The High Arctic is an extremely unique environment, with a quality of light that often appears surreal. In the Maldives, storms brew seemingly out of nowhere, diffusing the sun with layers of cloud that saturate the colors of the water and sand against the grey sky.
AS: What inspires your work, and how do you find inspiration?
ZF: The inspiration for my drawings began in my early childhood when I traveled with my family throughout several of the worlds most remote landscapes, which were 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.
In August 2012 I led Chasing the Light, an art expedition sailing up the northwest coast of Greenland, retracing the 1869 journey of American painter William Bradford and artistically documenting the rapidly changing arctic landscape. Continuing to address climate change in my work, I spent September 2013 in the Maldives, the lowest-lying country in the world, and arguably the most vulnerable to rising sea levels. These experiences have inspired me; I feel a sense of urgency to render these landscapes in flux.
AS: Is there anything about your creation process that you think is unique or quirky?
ZF: While traveling, I take thousands of photographs and make small sketches. 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 hands. I often break my pastel sticks with a pushpin to get a sharp edge to use for thin lines and details. A fair amount of pastel dust falls downward as I draw, a thin layer settling on the paper bellow. To avoid dirtying a finished section, I have developed the habit of working my way down from the top of the paper, finishing as I go. In a time-lapse video, it would look like a photo file on the computer, loading slowly.
AS: Who is an artist that you admire and why?
ZF: My mother, landscape photographer Rena Bass Forman. She was the biggest influence in my career as an artist, and continues to be even after her passing in 2011. I admire the dedication she had to her work. She would spend hours in the frigid Arctic winds, waiting for light to hit at just the right angle, missing meals and gazing out under frozen eyelashes, always with a smile.
AS: What are you working on now?
ZF: I have a solo show that I am working towards, opening June 10th in Seattle, at Winston Wachter Fine Art. It will feature the Greenland and Maldives work, and draw the connection to the melting ice, rising seas, and drowning island nations. I have also been forming a collective with two other artists that came to Greenland and the Maldives with me, Lisa Lebofsky and Drew Denny. Our project, titled Ice to Islands continues to evolve and take shape through drawings, paintings, film, performance, and education. We will be showing our work together in two exhibitions coming up; timeless thythms: sensing change at the Carla Massoni Gallery in Chestertown, MD, (April 4 - May 24) and Environmental Impact, a traveling museum exhibition that our work will join in September at the Erie Art Museum in PA.
AS: You recently went to the Maldives. What was it like to experience that landscape?
ZF: The Maldives stirred up a constant mixture of emotions. The joy of experiencing the island's breathtaking beauty was tinged with a sadness for their impending fate. It is paradise, with a hidden side of numerous environmental and humanitarian issues that stretch beyond climate change. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit, and meet some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever encountered. I only hope that my drawings can express both the beauty of the landscape and the urgency of the situation.
Watch Zaria and learn about her Chasing the Light campaign here.