Most of us have a fraught relationship with global warming. We know it’s something we should care about, we’ve heard that there are things we can do to help, we may have binge-watched Frozen Planet on Netflix, but climate change tends to be the most palpable in far-flung places that we may never see.
It’s tricky to link our everyday choices with what’s happening at the poles. Double-bag the groceries? Why not. Leave the lights on? No big deal. Toss that water bottle in the trash? Everyone else does. And yet all of these small choices have accrued over the last half-century to contribute to rising sea levels threatening populations from Bangladesh to the Maldives, more extreme weather events like Winter Storm Jonas, and deserts unfurling where there were once lakes full of fish.
Zaria Forman isn’t here to beat anyone over the head with a Greenpeace placard. The Brooklyn artist’s methods are subtler, more personal, and altogether more arresting. Forman creates vast, meticulously detailed pastel drawings of waves in the Maldives, storms over Greenland, and icebergs from a recent trip to Antarctica. She hopes that her work will help foster a deeper understanding of the climate crisis by giving viewers a way to connect with these remote landscapes.
In Forman’s drawings, the frozen monoliths seem endowed with personality. “This one’s very masculine,” she says, gesturing toward a jagged crest of ice that seems to rear up from the paper. She lightheartedly points out what she calls her “Georgia O’Keeffe iceberg,” replete with damp, layered curves. It’s no wonder she calls them “ice portraits.”
Growing up a stone’s throw from New York City, Forman was exposed to art at a young age through her mother, photographer Rena Bass Forman. During holidays, the family travelled to faraway places for the elder Forman’s work. “I developed an appreciation for the beauty and vastness of the ever-changing sky and sea.”
Refinery29 met the artist at her Brooklyn studio, where she told us about climate change and her artistic process, and taught us new words for ice. Click ahead for our interview and more of her stunning work.