Bright turquoise melt water cuts through piercingly white snow. Icebergs float calmly on the ocean, their jags and peaks reflected on the glassy surface. Light filters through semi-translucent ice. Looking at Zaria Forman’s work, it’s hard not to be transported to the icy landscapes of Greenland, Argentina, and Norway. It’s also hard not to do a double take, to think, These are photographs, right? Because what Forman can do with soft pastels, her fingers, and a canvas is almost unbelievable.
Forman’s drawings are incredibly realistic and breathtakingly beautiful. And that’s the point for this artist, who tries to capture “moments of transition, turbulence, and tranquility” in the landscape in order to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis. “I choose to convey the beauty as opposed to the devastation,” she says in a 2015 TED Talk. “If you can experience the sublimity of these landscapes, perhaps you will be inspired to preserve and protect them.”
Forman’s subject matter consists largely of melting ice and crashing waves. She wants us to journey with her to the edge of an Arctic glacier that may soon be gone, and then to the coast of the Maldives, a nation that may soon be subsumed by rising seas, so that we may understand how these two places, which feel worlds apart, are actually intimately connected. Or, to put it another way, she wants to take us to places many of us will never visit in person, and help us to truly grasp all that’s at stake as temperatures rise.