Drawings that show the beauty and fragility of Earth | Zaria Forman

Drawings that show the beauty and fragility of Earth | Zaria Forman

I consider it my life’s mission to convey the urgency
of climate change through my work. I’ve traveled north to the Arctic
to the capture the unfolding story of polar melt, and south to the Equator to document
the subsequent rising seas. Most recently, I visited
the icy coast of Greenland and the low-lying islands of the Maldives, connecting two seemingly disparate
but equally endangered parts of our planet. My drawings explore moments
of transition, turbulence and tranquility in the landscape, allowing viewers to emotionally connect with a place you might never
have the chance to visit. I choose to convey the beauty
as opposed to the devastation. If you can experience the sublimity
of these landscapes, perhaps you’ll be inspired
to protect and preserve them. Behavioral psychology tells us
that we take action and make decisions based
on our emotions above all else. And studies have shown
that art impacts our emotions more effectively than a scary news report. Experts predict ice-free Arctic summers as early as 2020. And sea levels are likely to rise
between two and ten feet by century’s end. I have dedicated my career
to illuminating these projections with an accessible medium, one that moves us in a way
that statistics may not. My process begins
with traveling to the places at the forefront of climate change. On-site, I take thousands of photographs. Back in the studio, I work from both my memory
of the experience and the photographs to create very large-scale compositions, sometimes over 10 feet wide. I draw with soft pastel, which is dry
like charcoal, but colors. I consider my work drawings
but others call them painting. I cringe, though, when I’m referred to
as a “finger painter.” (Laughter) But I don’t use any tools and I have always used
my fingers and palms to manipulate the pigment on the paper. Drawing is a form of meditation for me. It quiets my mind. I don’t perceive what I’m drawing as ice or water. Instead, the image is stripped down to its most basic form of color and shape. Once the piece is complete, I can finally experience
the composition as a whole, as an iceberg floating
through glassy water, or a wave cresting with foam. On average, a piece this size
takes me about, as you can see, 10 seconds. (Laughter) (Applause) Really, more like 200 hours,
250 hours for something that size. But I’ve been drawing ever since
I could hold a crayon, really. My mom was an artist, and growing up, we always had art supplies
all over the house. My mother’s love of photography propelled her to the most
remote regions of the earth, and my family and I were fortunate enough to join and support her
on these adventures. We rode camels in Northern Africa and mushed on dog sleds
near the North Pole. In August of 2012,
I led my first expedition, taking a group of artists and scholars
up the northwest coast of Greenland. My mother was originally
supposed to lead this trip. She and I were in the early
stages of planning, as we had intended to go together, when she fell victim to a brain tumor. The cancer quickly took over
her body and mind, and she passed away six months later. During the months of her illness, though, her dedication to the expedition
never wavered, and I made a promise to carry out her final journey. My mother’s passion for the Arctic echoed through my experience in Greenland, and I felt the power and the fragility of the landscape. The sheer size of the icebergs is humbling. The ice fields are alive
with movement and sound in a way that I never expected. I expanded the scale of my compositions to give you that same sense of awe
that I experienced. Yet, while the grandeur
of the ice is evident, so, too, is its vulnerability. From our boat, I could see the ice sweating
under the unseasonably warm sun. We had a chance to visit
many of the Inuit communities in Greenland that now face huge challenges. The locals spoke to me
of vast areas of sea ice that are no longer
freezing over as they once did. And without ice, their hunting
and harvesting grounds are severely diminished, threatening their way
of life and survival. The melting glaciers in Greenland are one of the largest
contributing factors to rising sea levels, which have already begun to drown some of our world’s lowest-lying islands. One year after my trip to Greenland,
I visited the Maldives, the lowest and flattest country
in the entire world. While I was there, I collected
images and inspiration for a new body of work: drawings of waves lapping
on the coast of a nation that could be entirely underwater
within this century. Devastating events happen every day on scales both global and personal. When I was in Greenland, I scattered my mother’s ashes
amidst the melting ice. Now she remains a part
of the landscape she loved so much, even as it, too, passes
and takes on new form. Among the many gifts my mother gave me was the ability to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. My drawings celebrate the beauty
of what we all stand to lose. I hope they can serve as records
of sublime landscapes in flux, documenting the transition
and inspiring our global community to take action for the future. Thank you. (Applause)

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100 Replies to “Drawings that show the beauty and fragility of Earth | Zaria Forman”

  1. we need to go nuclear! its the safest high power plant we got (it kills less than coal/gass plants) and we can refine the uranium a LOT of times without dumping it into the ground!

  2. Most people agree the earth is beautiful and fragile. The question is and has always been, whether "climate change" is manmade or nature's natural course.

  3. They are nice but I don't see why a photograph won't suffice. Just add a subtle Median filter in photoshop and tweak the color/levels.

  4. This makes me feel as though my art should do something that can make a positive impact, but I just painted a shoe #artproblems

  5. How much C02 was generated by flying all over the place to document the damage caused by flying all over the place?

  6. Art cannot be didactic no amount of college educated meaningless statements or the saction if technicality can make this art

  7. I scattered my mothers ashes and warmed up the water melting more ice. Explorers damage surrounding areas. Just leave it alone! Even boats engines are warming the waters. Shame on you!

  8. Beautiful works of art! Seeing this makes me want to take action and help climate change however I never know what the first step is .

  9. Such art. Much wow. Jokes aside, what a beautiful story. This is the part of TED that i like besides all the sciency stuff! Thank you for sharing this sense of Awe.

  10. I'm totally going to paint the formation of Ice at the south pole. The world is strong, and not fragile.

  11. well I think the bigger question is what are we going to do about these situations? or what can we do with the knowledge we have all agreed on? nevertheless her expressions are absolutely breathtaking and I understand the message she is sending. I don't take this talk for granted in no way.

  12. fair enough, she's unreal at art and has honourable intentions, but the greenhouse gasses she is responsible for releasing as a result of all those flights around the world seem to show the same selfishness that is in everyone about climate change; 'everyone else should change' 'its not my fault'.
    She could use images from the internet from people who have already been there to solve this. She doesn't need to visit herself if she chooses photography to work from that captures the atmosphere as well. Her work would be as powerful and a whole lot less hypocritical.

  13. Notice that almost all TED Talk speakers talk in the same tone, speed and same way to saying, "Thuank yu". Who was the first Ted Talk speaker to start this trend?

    Anyway, my co-worker took a trip to Antarctica two years ago on a small ship from Argentina and I saw similar photos to her paintings. Seeing it in real is a must and even large size photos will make an impact.

  14. the visuals are amasing but wat of these sounds some of us arnt lucky enough to go there and hear the environment, as an artist it would help meditation while drawing part immensely somone could possibly create something out of nothing with just the sounds guiding there hand
    hasvit occured to anyone that this melting is natures natural cycle and by extension unstoppable?
    srsly these artworks are …. unbelievable

  15. And then we all walk home with no shoes on, in the same  clothes I've worn for twelve years, with no make up on my face; to a house with no power, no plastic,  no glass no refrigerators, microwaves, gas stoves, hot water pipes or toothpaste; on a track with no cars, no parking lots, no traffic lights, no street lights; in a town with no shops; and we have no cell phones or money or battery chargers or aluminium frames or rare earth aided solar arrays; no stupid fuking hairdos or jewellery from primitive third world country tribes that we visit in aeroplanes to help them with the tourist dollar so we can skite to our friends that we are helping them attain self sufficiency. Did I take a wrong turn there  somewhere? Just a second I'll start again.
    I was flying in an aeroplane with a lovely pair of shoes that I bought on a recent shopping trip. From the airport I caught a cab to go to a TED talk to be inspired by another world traveller who works in mod-con buildings using processed art supplies, coaxial cable, satellites, make up, large modern air conditioned buildings, advertising, thousands of steel and plastic chair assemblies and coal powered lighting to send hypocritical messages to people who believe that their children will give up using five planets worth of resources otherwise… 
    Hang on I think I've taken a wrong turn here somewhere. Just a tick and I'll be back on track. 
    In the comfort of my own home I began to research inspirational speakers and artists conveying messages of truth concerning the juxtaposition of first world lifestyles and climate change, global warming and extreme weather events. The search began deep in the heart of the Congolese jungles of Africa, the outback communities of Australia, the rainforest tribes of the Amazon and the highland communities of Papua New Guinea. What a shame it was that none of these people had an inkling of what the subject matter entailed. The only concept they did understand, that they stood by and stood under was that they used only one earth, the one around them, to sustain their lifestyle. These people have been classed as 'third world' nationalities and with not much making sense down this avenue of investigation I presumed that 'second world' nations may be a bit more savvy on the topic. But no. They merely aspired to the lifestyle that first world countries find their comfort and safety in i.e. coal fired power stations or the solar and wind equivalent, refrigerators, freezers, restaurants, roads, electric or diesel powered motor cars, washing machines, satellites, mod-con buildings using processed art supplies, coaxial cable, satellites, make up, large modern air conditioned buildings, advertising, thousands of steel and plastic chairs… Whoops. I think I've taken a wrong turn here somewhere. It's ok. There's plenty of time. I'm not about to give up my safe and comfortable lifestyle merely because I took a wrong turn somewhere. Now let's see, where was I. That's right. Now I remember. 
    I decided to become an artist and champion the cause of global warming, climate change, extreme weather events and other effects of first world lifestyles on the planet. The journey was difficult, especially  learning to live with delusions of grandeur in the forest where there was no one to interpret my life's work as sacred, special, inspiring, meaningful or productive for the planet or it's inhabitants. The amazing thing was that I found a new comfort and safety amongst what had once seemed a too cold or too hot, dangerous prickly environment. My initial and primary focus was to satisfy the needs of food, water and shelter.  Focus, trial and error, hardship, loneliness, sunrise, black skys, wind, solace, solitude, bark canvases, plants with vitamin c, starch from rhizomes, medicine from seeds and flowers, animals to learn from, an abundance of natural resources, crayfish, vines, a comfy bed, overhangs, making fire, on and on, day after day, experimentation, paints from ochers, painting on cave walls, dealing with human waste, kino, poultices, a new culture of walking, from the mountains to the sea; the music of the lyre bird in the morning and the good night songs of owls and canine howls of 'here I am if you need me'; questions from my family, and my eternal question to them and you: are you ready to learn?, do you wish to learn? where do the greatest opportunities await to round ourselves off as human beings and dignify our full DNA potential
    From a song?- 'back on dry land once again, opportunity awaits me like a hole in the head'. That's no good to me or you anymore. We fill the holes in our hearts and our heads with information that allows us to build new holes in our hearts and minds.
    I suffer from delusions of grandeur. It hurts because the visions fail and end in selfish prison cell statements: 'don't you get it?'; 'can't you see?'; 'why don't you try?'; 'what can be more important?'
    There is a proposal that would allow feathers of light to perform on your dimpled cheeks. The tickle it produces makes us all smile.

  16. Excellent artistry, great talent. Fear mongering is just that. Ocean levels are always changing. You can not put a hold on mother nature. The ice sheet on North America was a mile and a half thick as little as 10,000 years ago. There were no great lakes 7,000 years ago. There are many ancient cities that are now submerged under 120 feet of water and evidence of world wide floods on every continent. We will adapt or die.

  17. nice drawings; however, even if humanity left the Earth today, sea levels will rise. It's climate, it changes. Earth is warming. Good for some, bad for some. Life's a beach.

  18. I don't see an issue with the earth cleansing itself with ocean water. civilizations are not important. If the earth can eliminate some of the human population to restore itself that's good. Maybe the reefs will repair themselves in time and the oceans will run the earth once more. We all came from water. be like water. don't panic. Let the earth do what it has always done. adapt and conquer. don't panic. Nothing matters. Enjoy the universe for what it is and nothing more.

  19. Thank you for your beautiful, yet humbling presentation. If we don't respect the Earth, it will likely return the favor.

  20. As a fellow artist I'm very impressed by her work. As a human being that thinks and researches all information available the climate change religion is something I do not adhere too, at least in the theory that humans are the only cause in any changing climate on this earth and that the "global community" can change it by forcing everyone to adhere to their unreachable goals. The climate change religion is about power and control, not saving the planet as the planet is fine. You do realize that next year is 2020 and there will still be plenty of ice in the Arctic right? https://realclimatescience.com/2019/01/eleven-years-of-arctic-sea-ice-thickening/

  21. I love the art. Beautiful and meaningful; it beams with purpose. Thank you for trying to say our Earth. Have a great day.

  22. Flying from country to country in carbon fueled plane seems to contradict her so called "saving of the climate"


  24. you are not right. let glaziers melt. it might bring some extra water to Earth that we could use. Humanity need look for alternative where he will be living. there are vast territories in Asia where mankind can migrate. Mankind should be tolerant to other races. should give them shelter.

  25. I love how she intended her art to show the majesty and the vulnerability of our home, the earth….to speak to our hearts so we can be inspired to take care of it. 💕😊

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