Our oceans remain one of the great mysteries of the world. Their deep reservoirs and centuries of artistry and stories have been shaped by seafaring writers, poets, and painters in their continued exploration of truth. Works of art that illuminate both our human condition and the unexpected discoveries found in these ever-changing waters.
Artists like Ernest Hemingway come to mind with tales of redemption and understanding. The Old Man and the Sea is 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? Women like Arica Hilton are deep water diver and intrepid explorers. Arica is a luminists who, like Hemingway, sees the world as an adventure in the making. Arica will tell you life is something we create; it doesn’t just happen.
When we first met Arica on WomanScape in Artists Who Light Up the Sky, we visited her series of paintings on earthly cosmos and our communion with nature. It stretches the boundaries of our imagination and invites us to reframe our perspective in works like her “American Icon” and the “Universe, Life Unlimited.”
Arica and Ernest speak to a growing ethical imperative that focuses on the value of nature and that internal voice in each of us that asks big questions about our relationship to each other and the ways in which we honor the world.
In part, this explains why Arica has amassed an enviable list of art collectors that flock to her work. Her series “I Flow Like Water” speaks to these fundamental questions about nature.
One of her pieces hung above a Monet painting in the Union League Club of Chicago this past summer as a sister companion to Monet’s light-filled waterlilies.
In another later series, Arica’s “Multiverse” series speaks to the need to repurpose plastics. Arica reframes their use in beautiful ways, using clear paint and plastic canvases that shimmer in the sunlight and dance in the wind. Last spring, they were suspended from the ceiling of the Caux Castle in Switzerland.
Every series provides an opportunity to explore new conversations and to voice alarm over egregious plastic pollution and the depletion of our oceans. Last fall, Ocean Geographic came knocking and asked Arica to participate in a world-class deep diving adventure for three weeks in Indonesia. Arica welcomed the opportunity to travel, explore, study and create alongside other renown scientists, artists, photographers, and musicians.
For Arica, it meant recertifying her diving credentials and committing 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.
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 changes 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 showcased her Elysium series, the creative work inspired by her Coral Triangle expedition, appear alongside the other respected artists who traveled with her. She traveled at the end of April to Beijing and Shanghai alongside National Geographic photographers David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes and Ernie Brooks.
Arica was also celebrated for her work at as Greenheart International’s Global Leader of the Year. She follows in the footsteps of former awardees Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jerry White and three-time Nobel Prize nominee, Dr. Ervin Laszlo.
What I love about Arica, however, is her continued dedication to building 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.
Too often 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. But imagining the opportunities that exist, even if we don’t have the confidence, can help us to take those first steps for making things happen, just as Arica and Hemingway did.
Inspiration is everywhere and Arica’s favorite 13th-century Persian poet, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi reminds us of the magical potential that exists within each of us:
“The garden of the world has no limits except in your mind.”
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi