CULTURE & ARTS

Artist Races Against Time To Paint Mural On Melting Arctic Iceberg

A massive but necessary risk to communicate the dire condition of planet Earth.

Along with the standard pigments and paintbrushes, artist Hula, aka Sean Yoro, requires an unorthodox piece of equipment for his particular brand of mural making: a paddleboard.

The Hawaiian muralist, balanced atop the buoyant platform, depicts indigenous women from various sites across the world, whose homelands are often threatened by the effects of global warming. 

For his most recent project, titled “What If You Fly,” Hula travelled to Baffin Island, off the coast of Nunavut, Canada, to paint a portrait of local Inuit woman Jesse Mike, who lives there with her daughter.

In a short film chronicling the artist’s process, Mike explains her frustrating prior experiences working with filmmakers who reported on the dire circumstances plaguing her endangered landscape. “For most people, it’s about the polar bears, it’s not about the people,” she said. “Well, let’s make it about the people.” 

Hula and his team spent 14 hours searching for the perfect iceberg canvas, knowing all the while that the ice itself, and any image created atop it, would soon melt away into nothing. 

“It’s a little ambitious to do this larger-than-life ice mural in the Arctic, and somehow, at the same time, make a connection to the human culture,” climber and filmmaker Renan Ozturk said of the project. 

When Hula found his ideal slab of ice, he rendered a profile portrait of Jesse he snapped earlier on his camera. Working against the powers of time and Mother Nature, the artist aimed to finish as much of Jesse’s portrait as he could before the iceberg collapsed.

The massive image, Hula’s most remote and technically challenging piece yet, communicates a haunting reality ― that the consequences of climate change, first and foremost, affect people. 

See the entire journey, in a short film directed by Ozturk and Taylor Rees, below.

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