Artist at Sea 2023
Kama’ehuakanaloa / Hawaii

Funded by the National Science Foundation and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Rutstein was invited to participate as an artist in residence on board the University of Hawaii’s R/V Kilo Moana with a science team led by Geochemist Christopher German in January 2023. The group explored the crater of the Kama’ehuakanaloa submarine volcano 22 miles off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii and 1000 meters below the ocean’s surface. The purpose of the expedition was to observe evidence of potential recent volcanic activity and gain a deeper understanding of the chemistry of vent fluids and microbiological systems at play. Furthermore, the study of the abundant microbial communities there, which subsist in the most desolate of environments, serves as an analog for understanding the potential for life in other ocean worlds beyond our own.

This was Rutstein’s 7th expedition at sea as an artist in residence. She set up a makeshift studio alongside Chief Scientist German in a lab space on the ship to develop her paintings. The works she created on the ship and back in her studio will be part of upcoming exhibitions at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, James Madison University and Oregon State University in the spring/summer/fall 2023.

She describes her experience:

“I was invited on board the R/V Kilo Moana as a resident artist to collaborate with the science team exploring changes in vent activity at Kama’ehuakanaloa. As a multidisciplinary artist who has previously worked with oceanographers on research vessels at sea, my work lies at the intersection of art, science and technology. I create work inspired by the natural world and am particularly fascinated by hidden systems in the deep ocean. Through paintings, sculpture, interactive installation and public art, I hope to connect the public more deeply with places and processes hidden from view as a means to educate, create empathy and foster stewardship. I work with data being collected and through mechanisms such as the lens of a microscope, the porthole of a submersible or the cameras of an ROV.

During the cruise, my paintings evolved from a number of sources: multibeam sonar data being collected at Kama’ehuakanaloa and Pele’s Pit crater, x-ray microscopy images revealing intricate structures created by iron oxidizing microbes – zetaproteobacteria – that proliferate at the crater vent sites, and visual observations of lava flows, microbial mats and features on the ocean floor provided by ROV Jason. More intangibly, as a response to the heave, pitch and roll of the ship I poured paint on canvases and allowed the ship’s motion to be recorded through the dispersion of paint. Interestingly, the fluid dispersion mimics micro and macro patterns found in the natural world including ocean waves and eddies, lava flows (like what we witnessed at Kama’ehuakanaloa), stromatolite fossils and cross sections of strata layers.

Working on the ship in collaboration with the science team is essential in terms of learning about the science being conducted, having unscripted and meaningful dialogues with the scientists, engineers and crew, making connections across disciplines and bringing together diverse voices for a shared experience and deeper understanding of our world. My collaborations with scientists in a range of fields give me a unique perspective and a broad view of the interconnectedness of all things in the natural world and the fractal geometry of nature. These collaborations are invaluable as inspiration for my work, and I’m often told by scientists that this union of art and science enables them to see their own work in a new light. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of the team.”

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series IKama'ehuakanaloa Series I

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series I, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series IIKama'ehuakanaloa Series II

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series II, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series IIIKama'ehuakanaloa Series III

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series III, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series IVKama'ehuakanaloa Series IV

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series IV, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series VKama'ehuakanaloa Series V

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series V, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series VIKama'ehuakanaloa Series VI

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series VI, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series VIIKama'ehuakanaloa Series VII

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series VII, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series VIII, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023Kama'ehuakanaloa Series VIII, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series VIII, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series IXKama'ehuakanaloa Series IX

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series IX, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series XKama'ehuakanaloa Series X

Kama'ehuakanaloa Series X, 18x18", acrylic on canvas, 2023