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A world in transition


Brilliant turquoise meltwater runs through the piercing white snow. Icebergs float calmly on the ocean, their serrations and peaks reflecting off the glassy surface. Light filters through the semi-translucent glass. Looking at Zaria Forman’s work, it’s hard not to be transported to the icy landscapes of Greenland, Argentina and Norway. It is also difficult not to do a double take, to think, These are photographs, right? Because what Forman can do with soft pastels, his fingers, and a canvas is almost amazing.

Forman’s designs are incredibly realistic and breathtakingly beautiful. And this is the goal of 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 beauty as opposed to devastation,” she said in a 2015 TED talk. “If you can experience the sublimity of these landscapes, perhaps you will be inspired to preserve and protect them. ”

Much of Forman’s subject matter is melting ice and crashing waves. She wants us to travel with her to the edge of an arctic glacier that may soon disappear, and then to the coast of the Maldives, a nation that may soon be subsumed by rising seas, so that we can understand how these two places, which feel worlds apart, are in fact intimately linked. Or, to put it another way, she wants to take us to places that many of us will never visit in person, and help us really understand all that is at stake as temperatures rise.