Philadelphia artist Rebecca Rutstein has developed a visual language within her paintings as a means to interpret as well as express the fantastic, mysterious, and often, unperceivable realms of nature.

In this series Abyss, Rutstein has focused on the exploration and mapping of the ocean floor. She was inspired by the world-renowned oceanographer Marie Tharp who spent more then 30 years mapping the unseen topography of the entire sea floor, nearly 25,000 drawings in total. Tharp and her colleague Bruce Heezen meticulously plotted sonar readings collected aboard research ships and pieced the data together. This was a monumental and significant scientific task in itself. And, as a result of these underwater maps, they unexpectedly discovered evidence that supported the never before proven theories of plate tectonics and continental drift.

Fascinated by Tharp’s drawings and pioneering spirit, Rutstein has created an imaginary underwater landscape in her honor. The installation features a series of 21 paintings placed overtop a hand-painted wall pattern of actual oceanic ship routes. Rutstein’s paintings are an unfolding narrative of magical underwater places. There are realistic mountain ranges, clouds, and plants juxtaposed with floating topographic forms, geometric patterns, and geodesic domes. Rutstein’s visual interpretation of the ocean floor is primitive and futuristic, familiar yet mysterious and a revelation for all to explore.

Leah Douglas, 2008
Director of Exhibitions, Philadelphia International Airport