Artist and part ocean explorer, Rebecca Rutstein – whose work spans painting, sculpture, interactive installation and public art – creates work at the intersection of art, science and technology. With interests in geology, microbiology and marine science, Rutstein is passionate about creating visual and interactive experiences that shed light on places and processes hidden from view, forging a dialogue about environmental stewardship in the face of climate change.
Rutstein has been an artist-in-residence in Iceland, Hawaii, the Canadian Rockies, Washington’s San Juan Islands, California’s Santa Cruz Mountains and along the banks of the Gihon River in Vermont. Most recently she has collaborated with scientists as an artist-in-residence on board research vessels sailing from the Galápagos Islands to California, Vietnam to Guam, in Tahiti, off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in Mexico’s Gulf of California and in the Salish Sea off the coast of British Columbia. In 2018, Rutstein made her first two deep sea dives to the ocean floor aboard Alvin, a fully submersible, 3-person vessel able to withstand the crushing pressure of the extremes of the deep ocean. Her ongoing collaborations with scientists through residencies and workshops have been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Academies of Science / Keck Futures Initiative, Ocean Exploration Trust and Schmidt Ocean Institute.
Rutstein has received the prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts, an Independence Foundation Fellowship, a Philadelphia Foundation grant to support a BioArt Residency at the Science Center, a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant, was named an MIT Ocean Discovery Fellow, and was recently awarded the Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding; an award given to leading global scholars and creative thinkers who conceive and produce groundbreaking work at the University of Georgia, including a year-long solo exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art.
With over 25 solo exhibitions, Rutstein has exhibited widely in museums, institutions and galleries, and has completed several public art projects including a major mural on the AT&T Building in Philadelphia. Rutstein’s work has been featured on ABC, CBS, NPR and in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Vice, Philadelphia and Vogue Magazines. Her work can be found in public collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Georgia Museum of Art, Yale University, University of New Mexico, University of Washington, Temple University, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, AT&T and Delta Airlines.
Rutstein holds a BFA (magna cum laude) from Cornell University, with abroad study in Rome, and an MFA from University of Pennsylvania. She enjoys speaking about the intersection of art and science and has been a visiting artist at institutions across the country including as a plenary speaker at the Alliance of Research Universities Conference of 2018 on Arts Environments: Design, Resilience, and Sustainability. Rutstein has been represented by the Bridgette Mayer Gallery in Philadelphia since 2001, and also works with Sherry Leedy Contemporary in Kansas City, Space Gallery in Denver, and Galeri Urbane in Dallas.
My work expands upon my interests in geology, microbiology, marine science and the undercurrents that continually shape and reshape our world. Much of my practice engages with the visual interplay between micro and macro environments, articulating fractal patterns found in nature. Visualizing data and maps, my paintings and installations often juxtapose opposing stylistic and conceptual frameworks: expressive/restrained, graphic/atmospheric, organic/geometric, micro/macro, handmade/mechanized, linear/solid. Through ongoing collaborations with scientists, much of my recent work and upcoming projects focus on the sublime and wonder of the deep sea, shedding light on a world hidden from view. I attempt to make the invisible visible, to connect the viewer with the natural world. As my work evolves, I feel passionately about creating interactive and immersive installations meant to deepen one’s connection to these unseen places, processes and networks, forging a dialogue about environmental stewardship in the face of climate change. – Rebecca Rutstein, 2020