Something about making art has to do with overcoming things, giving us a clear opportunity for doing things in ways we have always known we should do them. ~ Art and Fear, D. Bayles
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With her fingers covered in sweeping smears of blue and white pastel, Zaria Forman molds colossal watery shapes onto 8 foot sheets of paper with nothing but her bare hands. The process is meticulous, starting from the top, and working her way down adding layers of color over countless hours, drawing out the living water and the shimmering light from a lifeless sheet of paper. Three dimensional blue glaciers float in icy waters, sunlight breaking with astucious warmth across its shiny surface. The light bends so realistically against the water, you’re tempted to hold out your hands to catch the shattered crystals of light. “I think most human beings are drawn towards water in one way or another,” explains Zaria, “It makes up more than 60% of our bodies, and covers most of the Earth’s surface. We need water to survive, but we also gravitate towards it’s beauty – the respite, shimmer, and movement it adds to a landscape. Water provides me with an endless amount of inspiration as it constantly changes, taking on new forms from one moment to next.”
For some the drive to create is purely intellectual, a rational desire to produce something beautiful. And then there are those whose work is an impulse of the psyche, a creative itch that comes from some unknown corner of the mind. For such artists, art arises not from the desire to simply create something beautiful, but from the desire to create meaning out of the chaos that is human experience. Overwhelming happiness, love and loss often inform the painter’s hand, giving the work a powerful emotional charge.
Much of Zaria’s work is a testament and tribute to her mother, renowned artist Rena Bass Forman, who dedicated her life to photographing the most remote regions of the earth.
The cold and isolated landscape of the Arctic consumed Rena Forman’s interest for a decade before cancer tragically took her life in 2011. “She always said that she had been a polar bear in a past life,” Zaria explains, “Watching her spend endless hours in the frigid Arctic winds, patiently and happily waiting for the moment when the light was right, gave me no doubts that this was true.” The unrelentingly wild arctic landscape would leave a lasting impression on the young artist’s heart, with the biting wind and shimmering ice embodying her mother’s courage and artistic vision. It seemed only natural that after her death, Rena Bass Forman should become a physical part of the landscape she loved so much.
“In August 2012, I led an Arctic expedition up the North West coast of Greenland to create art inspired by this dramatic geography,” Zaria recalls, “Called Chasing the Light, it was the second expedition of its kind. The first was led by the American painter William Bradford in 1869. My mother had conceived the idea for the voyage, but did not live to see it through. During the months of her illness her dedication to the expedition never wavered and I promised to carry out her final journey.” It was a promise that would lead to some of Zaria’s most impressive work. “To date I have completed 22 large-scale works on paper,” she says, “Documenting climate change, the work addresses the concept of saying goodbye on scales both global and personal. In Greenland, I scattered my mother’s ashes amidst the melting ice.”
Before my mother passed away, my father, sister and I asked where she wanted her ashes scattered. Her first answer was Greenland, and since this was before I planned the expedition, my father asked ‘well, what if we can’t make it to Greenland?’ Her reply was ‘the Hudson River,’ which was across the street from our home of 30 years. Since the whole family couldn’t join me in Greenland, I scattered half of the ashes on the trip, and saved the rest for the Hudson River, which my family and I scattered on her birthday.”
“My mother taught me the importance of loving what you do,” Zaria explains, “and carrying out projects full force, no matter what obstacles lay in the way. And the obstacles were many and diverse. “During my first trip to Greenland, the Air Greenland flight attendants went on strike and we missed our flight home. We were stuck in the Arctic Hotel (a lovely place to be stuck no doubt!) with an eclectic mix of American news reporters, Scandinavian government officials, and actor Jared Leto with his band and film crew.”
Art can facilitate a deeper understanding of any crisis, helping us find meaning and optimism in shifting landscapes,” she explains, “I don’t want to depress people but rather I hope to connect them to these events on an emotional level, deeper than scientific facts and statistics can penetrate.
Over time Zaria’s artistic vision increasingly began to turn towards protecting the environment her mother loved so much. “Documenting the effects of climate change is an integral part of my work,” she explains, “However I don’t set out to educate climate change deniers. If some people choose to remain in the dark despite the facts of hard science, I don’t expect an artist to change their minds. I intend to celebrate the beauty of our changing landscapes. Many effects of climate change have already been, and will continue to be devastating. My drawings invite viewers to share this urgency in a hopeful and significant way.”
With seventy exhibitions under her belt, and a growing public interest in her work, Zaria has hit her creative stride. “I try to take life as it comes, day by day, without an end result in mind. I do what I can on a daily basis to play a part in saving our planet, and in turn, helping the lives that it sustains. I hope that at the end of the road, the life that I have led and the work I have accomplished has made some difference, however small that may be.”
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**Photography by Yana Bardadim, Styling by Melanie Norian, Hair and Makeup by Eugenia Lenz for Lone Wolf **