Changing Minds About Climate Change
Two artists are helping to reinvigorate the conversation about climate change by presenting its truths more... artfully.
About Zaria Forman
The inspiration for Forman's drawings began in early childhood when she traveled with her family throughout several of the world's most remote landscapes, which were the subject of her mother's fine art photography.
Zaria's drawings convey the urgency of climate change by connecting people to the beauty of remote landscapes. Her most recent achievements include participation in Banksy’s Dismaland (Aug-Sep 2015), a solo exhibition at Winston Wächter Fine Art in New York City (Sep 2017), and a four-week art residency in Antarctica aboard the National Geographic Explorer (Nov-Dec 2015). Zaria delivered a TED Talk that aired on PBS, and is featured on TED.com. In October 2016, she flew over Antarctica with NASA's Operation IceBridge; the largest airborne survey of Earth's Polar ice. Zaria has spoken at Harvard University’s Center for the Environment, where her drawings were exhibited for the 2017 academic year. In April 2017, she flew with NASA's Operation IceBridge once again, this time over Greenland and parts of Arctic Canada. Her next solo show is based on photographs taken during these NASA trips and will be at Winston Wächter Fine Art, New York, NY, opening in October 2018.
Zaria Forman’s works have appeared in National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post. Zaria was featured on Good Day New York and Fox News and was interviewed by Lucy Yang on ABC7 Eyewitness News. Her drawings have been used in the set design for the Netflix TV series House of Cards.
Born in South Natick, Massachusetts, Zaria currently works and resides in Brooklyn, New York. She studied at Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy and received a B.S. in Studio Art from Skidmore College.
Connect with Zaria Forman
About Nick Pedersen
Nick Pedersen is a photographer and digital artist originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. He holds a BFA degree in Photography, as well as an MFA degree in Digital Arts from Pratt Institute in New York, where he graduated with distinction. He has shown artwork in galleries across the country and internationally, recently including the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, the Main Line Art Center, Paradigm Gallery, and Arch Enemy Arts. He has published two artist books featuring his long-term personal projects Sumeru and Ultima. Many of his images have been recognized with awards from the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, and the Photoshop Guru Awards. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as After Capture, Beautiful Decay, Juxtapoz, Hi-Fructose, and Empty Kingdom. In the past few years, he has also completed Artist Residencies at the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada and the Gullkistan Residency in Iceland.
“My artwork is primarily inspired by my experience with nature and environmentalism. It is specifically motivated by my concern for the future due to the effects of climate change, sea level rise, deforestation, and many other environmental impacts humans have had on the planet. My goal with these projects is to visually depict this modern conflict between the natural world and the manmade world in interesting and provocative ways, to create elaborate, photorealistic images that show a striking contrast between utopian and dystopian visions of the world. I portray this as an epic struggle and in my work, these forces clash in theatrical, post-apocalyptic battlegrounds.”
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Climate change is a pernicious force quietly eating away at the future of the human race. The extreme unprecedented weather events we've been experiencing with increasing regularity point to the hard truth that we're burning way too much stuff. Global warming may already have passed the point of no return. 2015 was the hottest year on record, until it was surpassed by 2016. So the scientific debate has been settled, but the artistic discussion goes on.
Nick Pedersen: What really motivates me is to create artwork that is about the
time that I live in and is reacting and raising questions to important issues like this.
Nick Pedersen's work as a photographer and digital artist is driven by the idea of change.
Pedersen: So I like this one phrase that “art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a
hammer with which to shape it.” I interpret that in my own work, and my goal is to raise these
questions and get people to think about the future that we're creating.
Zaria Forman: The point of my work is to try to offer people a time, and a place, and a space to connect with these landscapes that are changing so drastically.
Zaria Forman's giant pastel drawings document her explorations of some of the world's most vulnerable and rapidly changing environments.
Forman: I'm sort of freezing them in time in my drawings, because it won't look the way that it looks when I saw it, even the next day. There were places in Antarctica where I got to revisit a week later, and the entire bay looked completely different. I wouldn't have recognized it. The glaciers are caving, icebergs are flipping, breaking, melting, cracking. There is a sense of
documentation, I think, in that where I'm holding a moment in time, stretching it
out, expanding it. Then I do sometimes change, you know, the shape of the ice a little bit—or maybe the water was really choppy and dark that day, and I want a nice reflection, and so I'll make that up. But in general I try to stay as true as I can to how I remember the landscape being in that moment in time when I saw it.
And whereas Forman's art is a representation of a recent past, Pedersen's imagines the future.
Nick Pedersen: It's mainly a contemplation of time and our place in the world, and just showing that the world as we know it might not last forever. And is creates a setting for what could possibly come next. I like to say that it's “hyper real,” because it's taking images and piecing them together to create a different, new reality that doesn't exist in the real world, but still has the weight of photographic believability and truth to it—which is what I think makes it powerful.
Pedersen: The Arctic series is about interpretation. The idea is that these future people are mythologizing the old world and creating sacred spaces to perform these rituals based on their unknown ancestors.
But how do all these fantastical futuristic creations change attitudes in the present?
Pedersen: There's been a lot of scientific studies about the idea of fear, and how humans are hardwired to react instinctively to more immediate threats like terrorism, but we are pretty much unable to conceive of aslow moving catastrophe like climate change.
Zaria Forman: Psychology tells us that we as human beings take action and make decisions based on our emotions more than anything else, and I think what art can do is reach our emotions. So that's why I'm drawing the beautiful things that I see. I mean I love beauty, that's just something that's a personal thing too. I recognize the beauty, and I want to bring it in front of as many people as I can, so they see it and they fall in love with it the way that I have. You know you can have a different kind of emotional reaction when you see destruction, and I think, in a way, that's just as important. It's just not a path I'm taking.
Pedersen: You see a lot of post-apocalyptic imagery in art and in the media that really, like, hits you over the head with these scenes of doom and gloom, but I think, to me, the most interesting artwork has real aesthetic beauty. And so those are the kind of images that I try to create, that really draw you in with composition and color and fine detail. But then, once you arrive, it leaves you with really important questions and thoughts to consider.
AJC: And what about the idea that it's not a question of “if now,” it's a question of “when?” That we are past the point of rescue.
Pedersen: That's, that's what I think inspires this urgency in my work, and what compels me to try and create as much as possible — because we are facing a lot of tipping points, if we don't change.
Forman: We have reached a point of no return, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a lot we can do to turn the ship around and to make things better in the future.
AJC: Does it ever get put in your face that there are people who still blithely disagree with the biological facts of what you're documenting?
Forman: Yes. I try to educate myself as best I can so that in these kinds of situations I can come back with the best response and at this point I think my best response is what's the harm in taking precautions? It's far more dangerous to just sit and wait and see what happens and it's far more expensive. It's still going to be expensive, but we're going to lose a lot less if we prepare ourselves so I don't really understand why we shouldn't do anything about it.
Pedersen: Whatever happens to us, the Earth is going to be around for another 4.6 billion years. So the question is whether we can maintain a habitable climate, or how do we adapt to its changes?
Ultimately, both of these artists believe that their best hope for impacting climate change is in motivating changes in attitude.