Zaria Forman spent her childhood following her fine art photographer mother and neuro-ophthalmologist father around the globe.
Forman’s mother — who called herself “a polar bear in another life” — loved capturing desolate, frozen landscapes. When her work started earning comparisons to photographers who went to the Arctic with American painter William Bradford in 1869, Forman’s mother became obsessed with planning a similar trip.
She went so far as to lunch with a couple from Belfast, Maine, on their boat to discuss sailing to Greenland, before she passed away from brain cancer.
“It was bigger than anything she’d ever done, so I felt it still needed to happen,” Forman told Business Insider of her mother’s expedition. “I couldn’t let it go because she was so obsessed with it, and it was honestly one of her most exciting adventures.”
“I didn’t think I could organise it, but now it set me on this path that I’ll continue on for the rest of my life.”
Forman, a professional artist who draws in pastels, went back to the Belfast couple and secured the boat for a three-week trip in August 2012 along the western coast of Greenland. Artists contributed about $US6,000 each, and some backers paid $US8,000 to come on board. Forman also ran a Kickstarter campaign, which enabled her to bring a filmmaker along, and held a fundraiser in New York City to help cover costs.
They followed Bradford’s path as closely as they could, and even stopped at some of the sites he found, using Bradford’s journal and photos of his trip, compiled in a book called “The Arctic Regions,” as a guide.
“We would hold his book up to the landscape and compare the rocks and formations to what he saw,” Forman said. “Not too much of the land was different, but I really did see a difference in the ice. I wasn’t necessarily expecting that.”
Now Forman can’t help thinking about climate change in her work. She feels a responsibility to document and combat it. A percentage of all Greenland drawing sales go to 350.org, a grassroots organisation that seeks to preserve and protect the planet.
She’s recently finished a series of huge drawings — some of them up to four feet tall and six feet wide — of Greenland, based on the 10,000 to 13,000 photographs she took and some small charcoal on vellum sketches she made along the way. Her finished pastel-on-paper drawings each took between one and four weeks to complete.
“My biggest challenge is always to depict the landscape honestly,” Forman said. “The landscape there is so otherworldly, I have these moments where it almost doesn’t look real and I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh she made that up.'”
'The work that I exhibit is way too large to create on site,' she said. After three weeks sailing around Greenland, Forman returned to her studio in Brooklyn to make her large-scale pastel drawings of the Arctic landscape.
When she compared Greenland's ice formations to those observed by the painter William Bradford in 1869, she noticed they were not as substantial.
A percentage of money from selling her Greenland drawings goes to 350.org to help protect the planet.
The success of her Greenland expedition encouraged Forman to lead a trip to the Maldives in September.
A chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives represent the lowest and flattest country in the world.
Forman believes it's a nation that could be entirely underwater within this century due to rising sea levels from melting ice.
'My hope is that my drawings will raise awareness and invite viewers to share the urgency of the Maldivians' predicament in a productive and hopeful way,' Forman writes on her website.
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.