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Women Explorers: Zaria Forman

My drawings explore moments of transition, turbulence, and tranquility in the landscape, allowing viewers to emotionally connect with a place they may never have a chance to visit. I choose to portray the beauty as opposed to the devastation… so people might be inspired to protect and preserve them.

Extraordinary artist, advocate, inspiration

An ability to manifest the evanescent

Zaria is known for her beautiful and impeccably naturalistic pastel drawings, featuring images of glistening icebergs, turbulent Arctic waters, and crashing tropical waves, inspired by remote landscapes and environmentally sensitive locations.


For the viewer, Zaria’s work is revelatory. From a distance her large-scale pieces are all shape, form, color—electric blues, stormy violet greys, lit-from-within whites—adding up to a sense of great mass. Move in closer and suddenly you’re on intimate terms with ice, its permutations of cavities, mounds, ridges, and hidden pools of cobalt blue, and to the effects of wind, wave, and sun on a surface you now regard as tender. This is the sorcery, this is how she makes you feel—for the ice, and for all that is wrenched and vanishing in our climate change-challenged world.


Climate change has been her theme since a 2006 trip to Greenland. Her early work had focused largely on the sky—featuring moody, tumultuous clouds, and relegating the land and water beneath to the margins. After meeting the people of Greenland and learning about the vital importance of ice to their way of life, the myriad challenges of perfectly rendering it in pastels, became her focus.

Travel to remote locations and the taking of thousands of photographs is integral to her practice—both her work, and her birthright. Her mother, Rena Bass Forman, was an accomplished fine art photographer known for large-format, sepia-toned images of natural and vastly different landscapes, from Sri Lanka and Newfoundland, Labrador to the Pacific Northwest and Italy.


Zaria traveled aboard National Geographic Explorer to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands as artist-in-residence in 2015 and 2018, getting an intimate, sea-level perspective on the ice. In the fall of 2017, she got her first aerial views of the Antarctic ice when she was invited to fly with NASA scientists working on Operation Icebridge, an aerial survey project.


As Zaria’s perspective shifts, she shifts the consciousness of all who see her work. And they are many: her 2016 TED Talk about her practice and the environment has 1.6 million views; her work is exhibited widely across the United States and overseas, and featured in many publications; and most recently she has been bringing her message directly to guests aboard our two new polar expedition ships, National Geographic Endurance and National Geographic Resolution. As the curator of two ground-breaking exhibits, which have a permanant place aboard these vessels, Zaria has assembled an incredible roster of artists. Their thought-provoking works are displayed throughout the ships and provide a richer understanding of the polar geographies we explore.


We celebrate Zaria’s dedication and extraordinary ability to manifest the evanescent—and to engage us in loving, and protecting, the beautiful landscapes we stand to lose.

We asked Zaria Forman:

Why do you explore?               

It brings me joy to witness the endless beauty on this planet, inspires my creativity, and allows me to share what I’ve seen with others. 


What is your favorite Lindblad Expeditions destination?

Antarctica, of course! 


What is the dream exploration you haven’t done…yet?

The moon 😉


Name a female hero and why. 

Christine Tompkins, because she has dedicated her life to land and ocean conservation, preserving millions of acres, and in turn, helping all the living creatures that these places sustain (including all of us!).


What’s your advice for the next generation of women explorers?

Follow your passion, work hard, and the universe will provide! 


What would people be surprised to know about you?

I don’t like ice in my drinking water.