Our oceans remain one of the great mysteries of the world. They are brimming with stories, from tales of Moby Dick and the Lost City of Atlantis to the milky-white waters of the tropics, where giant sea creatures and mermaids are imagined.
Within these deep reservoirs, centuries of artistry abound. Seafaring writers, poets, and painters have shaped their explorations in the quest for truth. Their works of art illuminate both our human condition and unexpected discoveries found in our ever-changing waters.
Traditionally, artists like Ernest Hemingway come to mind with his tales of redemption and understanding. Who can forget The Old Man and the Sea, one of Hemingway’s most celebrated works and a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about man’s struggle with nature and his mortality?
But what of seafaring women like Arica Hilton, whose deep water dives influence her art? She is an intrepid explorer and luminist who, like Hemingway, Arica sees the world as an adventure to be made and not something that happens to you.
When we first met Arica on WomanScape as an Artists Who Light Up the Sky, her series of paintings focused on our earthly cosmos and our communion with nature. They stretched the boundaries of our imagination and invited us to re-frame our perspective in “American Icon” and the “Universe, Life Unlimited.”
More than ever, our world has come to depend on artists like Arica and Ernest. They speak to an ethical imperative that values nature and that internal voice that asks big questions about our relationship to each other and how we honor the world.
No wonder Arica’s enviable list of art collectors flock to her work. She speaks to these concerns in her philosophical underpinnings. Her “I Flow Like Water” hung above a Monet painting in the Union League Club of Chicago this past summer as a sister companion.
Likewise, Arica’s “Multiverse” series spoke to the repurposed plastics reframed in our beautiful world. These clear paint and plastic canvases shimmered in the sunlight and danced in the wind, suspended from the ceiling of the Caux Castle in Switzerland last spring.
Every series provides an opportunity to explore new conversations and to voice alarm over egregious plastic pollution and the depletion of our oceans.
For Arica, it meant recertifying her diving credentials and dedicating three weeks to arduous travel that took her from Chicago to Tokyo and Jakarta to Molluccas (Ambon in Maluku).
From there, the team boarded the Gaia Love ship in Ambon and explored the area for plastics pollution and aquatic life. Long days were spent sailing among the 75,000 mile stretch of islands and through the Banda Sea and the Seram Sea.
It seems fitting that their boat, Gaia Love, is the Greek name for earth personified. Gaia was a Greek goddess and daughter of Chaos; something Arica saw in the plastic pollution among the beautiful lands of Ambon, Maluku and Sorong, West Papua.
This Indonesian archipelago of islands is a tourists’ paradise.
The experience confirmed what Arica knew: we are destroying our environmental sustainability and choking plankton, aquatic life and the very waters we depend on for our existence.
To tackle this problem, Arica continues to advocate for the change that Hemingway wrote about:
“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”
Arica is set to showcase her Elysium series, the creative work inspired by her Coral Triangle expedition. It will showcase alongside other respected artists like National Geographic photographers David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes and Ernie Brooks at the end of April in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Shenzhen.
As this year’s recipient of Greenheart International “Global Leader Award”, Arica follows in the footsteps of former awardees Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jerry White and three-time Nobel Prize nominee, Dr. Ervin Laszlo. What what I love about Arica, however, is how focused she stays on her desire to create change. As a member of Chicago’s Council on Global Affairs and a global ambassador for WomanScape and the International Women’s Associates, Arica continues rallies other voices of influence to help fight the urgent need for advocacy.
There’s a temptation to think we are small voices incapable of harnessing change, especially when you see the star power that Arica brings from her explorations and art. That’s where we have to imagine the opportunities that exist, even if we don’t have the confidence. We need to take that first step and make things happen, just as Arica and Hemingway did.
So every time WomanScape features a historical figure or a modern-day change agent, let’s recognize the power of curiosity and giving in to it. Eliza Scidmore was the first woman photojournalist for National Geographic because she wanted to understand foreign cultures. Arica Hilton answered the call from Ocean Geographic because it meant exploring new waters and meeting other creatives with a common passion for saving the world. Inspiration is everywhere when we actively look for it!
I can’t help but be reminded of Arica’s favorite 13th-century Persian poet, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. He captured this magical potential that exists within each of us:
“The garden of the world has no limits except in your mind.”