Time to travel to our oceans and some of the greatest mysteries of the world.

From the milky blue glow of the Indian Ocean and bio-luminescent bays, a great underwater cosmos beckons our exploration. There you’ll find stories of leaders, explorers, healers and artists, like Arica Hilton.

While the ocean may seem like an unlikely playground for art, it’s the subject of countless stories crafted by seafaring writers, poets, and painters who speak to centuries of imagination, wonder and truth.

We could use that beauty and truth, more than ever. Why not the kind stemming from a career forged in the oceans and all things water and the subject of Hilton’s creative and humanitarian work. Drawing from Ernest Hemingway’s seafaring tales to David Hockney’s Big Splash, Hilton forges a future based on new discoveries and greater insights manifest in our human condition.

seashore under white and blue sky during sunset

As a painter and gallerist, Hilton’s paintings and poems incorporate the luminest and flowing qualities of water.

Her work speaks to the struggles of our human condition, the adventures to pursue in the great unknown as well as the need to protect our environment from the onslaught of wasteful pollutants like plastics and garbage.

WomanScape first introduced Arica as an Artist Who Lights Up the Sky. Her series of paintings focused on our earthly cosmos and using it to push beyond the boundaries of our imagination. She showed us how in paintings like “American Icon” and the “Universe, Life Unlimited.”

More than ever, especially as we battle the ravages of a pandemic disease and struggle to engage in discourse over civil rights that languished in the stories of unjust deaths, we’ve come to depend on artists like Hilton.

While the subjects may be different, artists help us navigate the ethical imperatives in our social environment and the need to protect our natural world. They force us to ask what we need to do to preserve balance and to determine if we are honoring our responsibilities to her and each other.

Hilton asks us to consider our direct relationship to nature – a message elevated in the wake of COVID and our desperate need to feel more connected to her. Just look at the number of people building gardens and spending purposeful time in the outdoors. These activities are healing and we crave them more in the interrupted wake of our former lives.

No wonder Hilton has joined an enviable list of artists whose work attracts avid collectors. Hilton’s philosophical expressions in works like “I Flow Like Water” have been featured next to Monet’s work in the Union League Club of Chicago, as well as “Multiverse”, a series of painting incorporating repurposed plastics.

Hilton’s paint and plastic canvases also shimmered in the sunlight and danced from the ceilings of a castle in Switzerland. Invited to showcase her work as part of a peace conference, Hilton embraces every opportunity to build conversation around what she calls, “egregious plastic pollution and the depletion of our oceans.”

In the fall of 2018, Hilton joined a team of Ocean Geographic scientists and a group of artists, photographers, and musicians on a three-week trip to Indonesia.

The deep diving adventure meant re-certifying her diving credentials and an arduous travel plan taking her from Chicago to Tokyo and on to Jakarta and 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.

Sumatra, Indonesia

The crew of researchers and artists set out in a boat called Gaia Love, which translates as the Greek name for earth personified.

Gaia was a Greek goddess and daughter of Chaos; a rather fitting story for tons of plastic pollution floating alongside the beautiful lands of Ambon, Maluku and Sorong, West Papua.

Hilton experienced the Indonesian archipelago of islands, often called a tourists’ paradise.

Yet, what Arica saw reinforced what she knew: we are destroying our environmental sustainability and choking plankton, aquatic life and the very waters we depend on for our human existence.

After returning from her adventure, Hilton showcased her inspired Elysium series. It brought the Coral Triangle expedition to life and pressed what Hemingway knew decades earlier:

“Now is not the time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”

Hilton’s work alongside other respected artists like National Geographic photographers David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes and Ernie Brooks traveled through Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Shenzhen in 2019. Her work was recognized at the end of last year by Greenheart International in their Global Leader Award.

As a member of Chicago’s Council on Global Affairs and our very own global art ambassador for WomanScape, Hilton reminds us to engage in discourse and to cherish nature as an extension of our social justice. Over the recent months, Hilton has continued to expand the bounds of conservation by adding new artists to her gallery in Chicago, Hilton Contemporary and also launching a Broadcast Series that includes prominent global artists like Paul Ncklen, Cristina Mittermeier, David Gamble, David Yarrow, Blake Ward and Boky Hackel-Ward.

Rose McInerney

Author Rose McInerney

Rose combines her love of all things artfully-designed to connect women to a shared community of learning and a richer, more fulfilled self. As a passionate storyteller, published writer, and international traveler, Rose believes women can build a better world through powerful storytelling.

More posts by Rose McInerney

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