Rena Bass Forman

American, 1948–2011

Greenland #3 Illulissat, 2007
Toned gelatin silver print
38 x 38 in. (96.5 x 96.5 cm)

William Bradford’s photographic book, Arctic Regions, inspired Rena Bass Forman, who died at the height of her career. Passionate about all things Arctic, she organized her own family expeditions to Greenland in 2007 and Spitsbergen in 2008 and 2010.

During the summer of 2007, Forman photographed icebergs calved from the Jakobshavn Glacier, the fastest-moving glacier in the world and in rapid retreat. In Greenland #3, she presents a portrait of an iceberg scoured into the shape of a cavern. The artist described such formations as “apparitions, hauntingly glorious in the mystical light.”

Forman impressionistically interprets a fleeting moment, which contrasts with the timeless, hard-edged documentary look of Critcherson and Dunmore’s work. The appearance of her sepia-toned prints references a more romantic sensibility, when early 20th-century photographers emulated painting. Infused with a sense of reverie, the photograph reflects the artist’s concern for the fate of Arctic ice.

Forman’s untimely death in 2011 while planning an expedition with the New Bedford Whaling Museum, prevented her from fulfilling her dream of tracing Bradford’s footsteps. Fortunately, her daughter Zaria Foreman accompanied the voyage. She continues Rena’s legacy by interpreting climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic regions in large pastel drawings.