American artists Zaria Forman, Drew Denny and Lisa Lebofsky have traveled to Greenland and the Maldives together since 2012, documenting Earth’s shifting landscape and the effects of progressive climate change. Their story invites viewers to share the urgency of the Greenlandic and Maldivian predicaments through the mediums of fine art and storytelling: Forman makes large-scale pastel drawings; Lebofsky paints landscapes on aluminum panels en plein air and in the studio; and Denny is directing a feature-length documentary film. By connecting these disparate landscapes, the Ice to Islands project creates a platform for a dynamic dialogue around polar ice melt, rising sea levels, and the cultural and socio-political implications of these phenomena.
In August 2012, Forman led an expedition in Greenland titled Chasing the Light and invited Lebofsky and Denny to participate in the historic endeavor. They re-traced the route of the first art expedition along Greenland’s NW Coast, led in 1869 by American painter William Bradford, whose mission was to create art inspired by the area’s dramatic geography.
Zaria Forman’s mother, fine art photographer Rena Bass Forman, had conceived the idea for the voyage, but did not live to see it through. During the months of her illness her dedication to the expedition never wavered, and Zaria promised to carry out her mother’s final journey. As Zaria scattered Rena’s ashes amidst the melting Arctic ice, Lebofsky painted sites much-changed since Bradford’s renderings, and Denny filmed interviews asking, “How do we say goodbye?” – on both personal and global scales.
Greenland’s ice melt contributes to rising sea levels, inspiring Forman, Denny, and Lebofsky to follow the meltwater from the Arctic to the Equator. In 2013, they teamed up with local EcoCare activists in the Maldives, the lowest and flattest country on Earth. They photographed and painted the landscape while recording stories and filming interviews amidst the country’s first democratic election since the military coup in 2012. Forman and Denny returned in late 2014/early 2015 to continue investigating the relationship between climate change, politics, and religion in the Maldives. Again, they partnered with grassroots organizers, journalists, and artists whose generosity and kindness allows Ice to Islands to celebrate and represent a country that could be entirely underwater within this century.
Ice to Islands continues to evolve through expeditions, exhibitions, the film and education.