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September gallery highlights: From Antarctic ice to apocalyptic flames

New shows explore interactions with surroundings in very different ways.

Icescapes, landscapes, bodyscapes, doomscapes. Fine new shows in Seattle art galleries offer a theme-and-variations look at how we inhabit and interact with our surroundings.

“Zaria Forman: Antarctica”

“Nice photographs,” you might think when first looking at Zaria Forman’s epic-scale images of Antarctica. Only they aren’t photographs — they’re soft-pastel drawings on paper that capture the shimmers, shadows and glacier-borne grit of ice in action in astonishing ways.

Forman drew them after a four-week residency aboard the National Geographic Explorer as the ship explored the coastline of Antarctica. The variety of effects she achieves with a medium that’s mostly associated with gauzy impressionism is startling.

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“Errera Channel, Antarctica No. 4” captures the wet reflective sheen of melting surface ice under a moody sun. “Whale Bay, Antarctica No. 4” is a tumult of icy cliffs and crags, ranging in brightness from blinding white to storm-cloud gray.

“Cierva Cove, Antarctica No. 1” depicts a chaotic ice field seen in near whiteout conditions, while “Risting Glacier, South Georgia No. 1” presents a whole horizon-filling pageant of disintegrating ice turrets, glowing white and blue, cracked and scarred with fissures and veins of sediment.

“B-15Y Iceberg, Antarctica No. 2” emphasizes the architectural aspect of two towering flat-topped floating ice structures. The boldest composition is “Cierva Cove, Antarctica No. 2,” with its oddly vertiginous close-up of a mountainous ice formation, its liquid character caught in dazzling frozen form.

The show is accompanied by an 8-minute video in which the camera circles an open-arched iceberg in Whale Bay. It’s beautiful, but also makes clear the extraordinary depths and subtleties of the drawings’ pastel…

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