Meridel Rubenstein began her professional career in the mid 1970’s, evolving from photographer of single photographic images to multi-media artist of large-scale installations. From the beginning her art making has argued for an awareness of how we are connected to place. Her works are known for their unusual combinations of materials and ideas as seen in the work Oppenheimer’s Chair. Here a transparent photographic armored sentry figure guards a glass house filled with white sand. A ghost tree, sandblasted onto the back wall, frames a glass chair upon which video imagery is projected, all suggesting the shedding of defensive postures. Commissioned for the 1st Site Santa Fe International Biennial in 1995, this seminal work marked the 50th anniversary of the first atomic test at Trinity, the date on which the Biennial opened. Underlying all that she creates, is a sense of possibility, of the visual beauty and richness of the natural world.
Her newest work Eden Turned on its Side focuses on intersections of nature and culture in relationship to ecological and social imbalance. After millennia of destruction, can Eden be restored? In three parts:
Part I, Photosynthesis, includes images of trees and people exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the seasons, in a post-Edenic and threatened relationship. Presented not as a timeline but as a natural cycle of life, death and rebirth, human beings and nature are visualized deeply connected and existing in a true if threatened symbiosis.
Part II, The Volcano Cycle, explores deep time with images of volcanoes from Indonesia’s Ring of Fire that evoke earth, climate change and human co-evolution. Here the destructive forces of Nature are observed to be regenerative.
Part III, Eden in Iraq, is set in the marshes of South¬ern Iraq, a site said to be very near to the original Gar¬den of Eden. Here Meridel is co-designing a wastewater garden/memorial site that aims to transform relics of war and destruction into art. Ongoing photographs and video are being created to make a new record of the transforma¬tion of this land and people. Among these images, we find a new Adam and Eve in the new Eden.
These three bodies of work, consisting of photographs on paper and metal, exist independently as separate framed exhibitions and together as one installation with video and objects.
Meridel maintains her art studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is represented by Brian Gross Fine Arts in San Francisco and David Richards in Santa Fe. She has exhibited widely including the Louvre, Paris (2011); Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago and The List Center for the Visual Arts at MIT in Cambridge as well as in numerous gallery and traveling museum exhibitions. Her works are in prominent collections including the National Museum of American Art in Washington, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany.
She has been an active arts educator for over 30 years. Since 2006 she has been a Visiting Associate Professor at the new School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore one semester a year. From 1990-95 she was the Harnish Visiting Artist at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has created photography programs at the College of Santa Fe(1976-80) and the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico(1990-96) and directed the Photography Program at San Francisco State University in California, the oldest Master of Fine Arts program in the USA(1985-90).
Meridel Rubenstein has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Bunting Institute at Harvard University, awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, as well as the Pollock Krasner and the Rockefeller Foundations. She was educated at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and did special graduate studies at M.I.T. with the eminent photographer, Minor White. She received an M.A. and M.F.A. from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, in 1974 and 1977, where she studied with noted art and photography historian and museum directors Beaumont Newhall and Van DerenCoke and did the first indepth research for her MFA thesis on the mutual influence of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz.
In October 2004, BELONGING: Los Alamos to Vietnam, Photoworks and Installations, was published by St. Ann’s Press in Los Angeles. This major monograph of twenty years of her work, includes texts by environmental writer Terry Tempest Williams, cultural theorist Elaine Scarry, and reknown art writers James Crump, Lucy Lippard, and art and cultural critic Rebecca Solnit. Solnit has written of Rubenstein:
- a consummate maker of metaphors, an artist who can never talk about only one thing at a time, but speaks of things in relationship, of lives to landscapes, of corporeal location and homing in terms of labyrinths and minotaurs, of bombs in terms of other myths, of physicists in relationship to pueblos.