At the crack of dawn across the arctic waters of Baffin Island, the Hawaiian artist known for painting environmentally-friendly waterside murals from the balance of his paddleboard, Hula, a.k.a., Sean Yoro goes to work nailing down an acrylic sheet on the face of a melting iceberg. In the nine-minute, What If You Fly, a short film produced by the Camp4Collective the artist travels to Nunavut, Canada to paint a portrait of an Inuit woman. The documentary chronicles Hula’s race against the tide and the melting ice as he embarks on one of the most technical projects of his career.
The subject of Hula’s mural is local woman named Jesse Mike, who lives on Baffin Island with her daughter. In the film, Mike says that people seem more concerned with polar bears than the people currently being affected by melting glaciers. When it comes to the subject of rising sea levels, “Let’s make it about the people,” she says.
After a 14-hour day of scouting and chasing the tide around in search for that the perfect icy canvas, Hula and his team find their melting sheet and camp out on the ice. To use a reference, the artist snaps a photo of Mike with his camera and traces her outline on a tablet. As night turns to day and the block of ice slowly begins to disintegrate, his speed and precision are put to the test as fights to get as much of the mural finished before it's too late.
This isn't the first time Hula has painted on melting iceberg. Almost a year ago, the artist painted A’o ‘Ana (The Warning), a mural series on a couple of icebergs freshly broken off from a nearby glacier. The pieces were made to help spread awareness about rising sea levels and climate change.
What If You Fly is certainly a more cinematic and personal look into to Hula’s work. Over the slow-motion cuts of the arctic landscape plays a recorded reading of a poem by Erin Hanson: “There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask "What if I fall?" Oh but my darling, What if you fly?”
The poem inspired Hula to get ‘What if I fall?’ and ‘What if you fly?’ tattooed on either side of his neck. Throughout the film, he reflects on feelings of self-doubt and the importance of risk-taking. See him in action in the video below:
To learn about Hula, head over to his website. Be sure to check out our previous coverage of his works in the links below.