This artist creates incredible portraits on ice caps -- and then they disappear

Updated 11th November 2016
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This artist creates incredible portraits on ice caps -- and then they disappear
Written by Georgia McCafferty, CNN
Surfer turned street artist Sean Yoro has created hauntingly beautiful portraits on icebergs in Iceland and remote waterside walls, navigating his aquatic locations on a paddle board.
But his latest balancing act proved to be his most ambitious yet, as he braved the rapidly disappearing ice floes of the Canadian Arctic in his ongoing quest to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change.
"It was tricky because you can't see and there's some clear ice that I was bumping into while I was on my paddle board," says Yoro of his latest project, titled "What if you Fly".
"And there were definite close calls where I almost fell in, but I'm lucky to have grown up on a surf board, so I'm very comfortable in all types of situations which made it easier for me.
Yoro with one of his previous works, AoAna.
Yoro with one of his previous works, AoAna. Credit: courtesy sean yoro

Painting on ice

Yoro, who grew up in Hawaii and also goes by the name Hula, describes his fleeting works as a "balance between nature and art" and says his Hawaiian upbringing instilled in him the belief that it's his responsibility to take care of the environment.
For "What if you Fly", Yoro teamed up with well known extreme wilderness photographer and filmmaker, Renan Ozturk to document his work and try to take his message to the "younger generation."
The photographer and artist spent two weeks in Nunavut, on Baffin Island in Canada, working with the locals to get to know their culture and local environmental issues. One girl that Ozturk photographed ended up being Yoro's muse.
"The portrait I painted was of a local Inuit girl that we had met up there, and she's spoken on climate change, which is what I love to get inspired by," says Yoro.
But while choosing a subject was easy, finding the floating canvas for his art proved much harder, as the ice floes in the area were melting fast.
"Even the locals were saying how quickly the pack ice, which is the main ice that they usually hunt on for most of the year, was melting," says Yoro.
"Basically the week that we were there, probably 80% of the ice was gone. So when we were scouting for the smaller ice floes, it was very tricky. When testing how thick the ice was, some of the ice was cracking just while I was standing on it."
Yoro finally settled on a piece of suitable ice and set to work creating the girl's image with paint. Although he said it was a quick process once they started, the ice eventually proved too fragile for the artist.
"With one head I painted she's kind of embracing the ice, lying on her back. That's the big one that we tried to complete but the ice ended up cracking and we basically had to bail out of it at the last minute."
While not complete, Yoro's work is a striking piece of art, with the lone eye of the girl glaring accusingly from among the remnants of floating ice. From that perspective, it certainly seems to have met its goal.
"I think just visually its important that people can see how quickly that ice is melting," says Yoro.
"You know there's hundreds of articles on climate change, but I want to be that little visual voice that people can actually, hopefully, have more of a connection with."