Table of Contents
Insights || Colin Whyte

Look under the covers at America’s greatest book store.

Playlist || Malcolm Johnson

Golden Dust, Dirt, Rust & Trust: A Pick Up Worth of Sound for the Soul.

Insights || Lisa Richardson

Growing up & growing pains: Can a garden town all get along?

Conversation || Zaria Forman

From Brooklyn to the ends of the earth, a compelling artist with a chill perspective dives deep into details.

Reflections || Trevor Komori

Forge on! Meet the man with a fire for recycling.

Legacy || Full Press Staff

Father, Son & the Whole Case of Scotch.

Insights || Andrew Findlay

Sometimes a cure is closer than you think.

“I find more beauty in moody light than bright sunshine.”

Out of the Darkness

Conversation || Zaria Forman
Zaria Forman

Zaria Forman is a Brooklyn-based soft pastel artist who works in large-scale and even larger themes. Dark, icy landscapes are prominently featured in her work, and it makes sense: it was the death of her mother in 2011 that inspired her to use art to bring attention to the devastating effects of climate change. Here, she shares her process and her inspiration with Full Press.  

Zaria Forman in her Brooklyn, NY studio. Photo: Celeste Sloman

Artist Zaria Forman’s breathtaking work is inspired by loss, both personal and planetary. 

“Living in fear won’t help anyone. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but fear is paralyzing, whereas positivity and hope are empowering. We need to join forces across boundaries of discipline, geography and political affiliation, to move forward.”

FP || Your mother was a photographer who often brought you on adventures to amazing places. She clearly inspired you. When she passed away, did it change your art—or the way you approach art as a practice—in any way?

ZF || I never thought I had it in me to plan and carry out the kinds of trips my mother organized. When she passed away, I thought that was the end of my travelling days. I realized though, that in her honour, I had to carry out the expedition that she and I had begun planning together. The process of leading that trip, (taking a group of artists and scholars up the north-west coast of Greenland) gave me the confidence to move forward and continue travelling. I am forever grateful to my mom for that, and consider it one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me.

Whale Bay, Antarctica no.4, 84"x144", 2016


FP || There’s a sort of quiet violence that comes through in some of your drawings, like a subtle threat hidden behind the more obvious beauty. You’re well known for your voice for climate change. Do you feel other emotions beyond that message come through in your work?

ZF || From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I find more beauty in moody light than bright sunshine. But I can’t help but feel a mixture of fear, frustration and especially sadness when I think about the global effects of our changing climate. Although I do my best to remain positive, stay hopeful and inspire people with the beauty of these threatened places, I suppose all my mixed emotions are imbued into the things I create.

FP || You draw more than just the icebergs and waterscapes you’ve become notable for. Are there similarities between the raw natural beauty you draw and the straighter, clean lines of architecture?

ZF || The process of drawing interiors is very different from rendering my landscape work as there is more leeway with natural elements. Where an imperfect line would go unnoticed on an iceberg, it would skew the perspective on, for example, a table or a chair. There are, however, many similarities. The clean line where a glacier meets the sky requires just as much precision as the outline of a crystal hanging from a chandelier. 

Whale Bay, Antarctica no.2, 50"x75", 2016

Maldives no.15, 40"x65", 2015

Maldives no.10 45"x75", 2014

Cierva Cove, Antarctica no. 1, 60"x90"

FP || From afar, your work has a hyper-realistic quality. Do you accentuate or alter the subjects in your drawings significantly from the photos you work from? How faithful is the finished product to the real-life icebergs and waves they depict?

ZF || Occasionally I will re-invent the water or sky, alter the shape of the ice, or mix and match a few different images to create a balanced composition. I’d say 90% of the time I’m depicting the exact scene that I witnessed because I want to stay true to the natural landscape that existed at that point in time - which by the way, often looks completely different by the time I’ve completed the drawing.

FP || Scale seems to play a big part in your work. Does your decision to draw on large canvases come from your chosen medium, or because you want to use size to have a greater impact?

ZF || Oh boy, I’m quite insane for working on such a large scale with soft pastels. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone! It’s a logistical nightmare, which is why no one else except Robert Longo (that I know of) does it. I am simply in love with the medium though, and until that love affair fades, I can’t break myself away. I work on a large scale for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, how can I do such an epic and grandiose place as Antarctica any justice on a small piece of paper? The landscapes I depict are massive, and I think it’s only appropriate to render them as large as I can possibly manage. Additionally, I want to offer viewers a time and place to feel as if they have been transported to these remote regions. I want to convey the scale, as well as the details and textures. I want viewers to feel enveloped by the landscape, as I do when I’m in them.

Drawings that show the beauty and fragility of Earth. Filmed November 2015 at TED Talks Live.

FP || Your photos are beautiful as well. Was there a conscious decision to choose drawing over photography or other art forms, or is drawing merely the medium that has attracted the most attention?

ZF || Neither, actually. Ever since I could hold a stick of charcoal, I have loved drawing. Photography has been a part of my process for many years now, but it’s never been the end result, or at least what I’ve wanted to exhibit.

Errara Channel, Antartica no.1

Errera Channel, Antarctica no.1, 23"x23", 2016

FP || Tell us about your partnership with NASA.

ZF || In 2016, NASA invited me to join their Operation IceBridge, which for the last nine years has been mapping the geometry of the ice at both Poles. We flew on 12-hour flights, only 1500 feet above glaciers, sea ice and mountain tops. I was able to witness an entirely new perspective of the icy continent, one that no other artist has ever seen – quite an honour that I am extremely grateful for. For most of us, Antarctica is a big white spot on a map. Even for me, flying above, I saw flat white desert for hours. But for the IceBridge scientists, who are at the very top of their field and, in most cases, have designed and engineered the precise instruments onboard, there’s complex and rapid change occurring just beneath the surface. The team urged me to join their 2017 Arctic flights, which are known for being even more scenic than Antarctica. I recently returned from one week of flights over sea ice, ice caps and glaciers in Greenland with the IceBridge team. I have a huge appreciation for the complexities and dangers of this mission, and the expertise of the flight crew and scientists. It was an honour to fly with them again, to compare the Arctic ice to its southern counterpart and to hear about the team’s more recent discoveries.

FP || It sometimes feels like the conservation movement is powered by fear. You say your mother instilled in you a sense of optimism. What would you say to people struggling to stay hopeful as they try and create a better world amongst what seems like constant loss and threat?

ZF || Living in fear won’t help anyone. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but fear is paralyzing whereas positivity and hope are empowering. We need to join forces across boundaries of discipline, geography and political affiliation, to move forward with momentum in the best way possible. It’s too late to solve the climate crisis but we can certainly mitigate its damage.