From March 2020 through September 2022, The Collaborative Arts Research Initiative (CARI) at the University of Alabama supported an interdisciplinary collaboration between multidisciplinary artist Rebecca Rutstein and NASA-funded UA Department of Geological Sciences assistant professor Dr. Julia Cartwright, who is a CARI Fellow.
An expert in cosmochemistry, Dr. Cartwright uses petrological techniques and high-resolution microscopy to investigate meteorites from localities including Mars, the Moon and the Asteroid Belt, at different scales. Her studies of tiny fragments of materials reveal many facets to help us better understand our Solar System history, and the images produced through the microscope highlight important features about planet formation.
The collaboration with Rutstein took this research to a new cosmic level.
Rutstein is an award-winning artist whose work spans the intersection of art, science and technology. She creates paintings, sculpture, immersive installations, and public art, often incorporating bright colors, bold shapes and geometric patterns, with an aim to create visual experiences that enhance and educate the viewer about natural systems. While her previous work has involved studies of the natural world, climate, ocean environments, including deep-sea excursions within the Alvin submersible, this is the first time that she has collaborated with a geologist to create work inspired by planets beyond our own.
The result is a body of work that takes the viewer on a journey through the cosmos, to localities previously unseen or discovered. Rutstein’s paintings are inspired by microscopic investigations of the intricate surfaces of these billions of year old meteorite fragments, as well as the wild journeys that they experienced before hurtling to Earth.
Cartwright and Rutstein collaborated on this project throughout the pandemic, and were thrilled to see it come to fruition with the solo exhibition: “Rebecca Rutstein: Microscopic Journeys Through Cosmic Landscapes”, on view at the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art (UA) from September 8th thru October 14th, 2022. The exhibition traveled to Space Gallery in Denver for the remainder of the year.
In addition to the exhibition, Rutstein presented a public lecture on her work, and Rutstein and Dr. Cartwright presented a joint seminar at the University of Alabama in September, 2022.
Cartwright and Rutstein are also the recipients of a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts to continue their collaboration through 2023.
To view the complete series and Rutstein’s exhibition at the University of Alabama:
To visit Cartwright’s lab and read more about their collaboration: