David Richard Gallery presents a selection of photographs from Meridel Rubenstein’s newest body of work, “Eden Turned On Its Side”, that look at the human spirit and “ecological processes across time that either reinforce or destroy the notion of Eden”. This presentation looks at her newest work in the context of earlier projects that also examine the will of humans and ability of the environment to survive at the intersection of culture and nature.
Several of Rubenstein’s photographic series throughout her career explored the impact of humans on nature and how the assaults from war and global expansion have created ecological and social imbalances. However, Rubenstein chooses to celebrate the intelligence of nature and its power to regenerate and survive. This presentation looks forward and backward at several examples.
Rubenstein’s newest body of work, “Eden Turned On Its Side”, is composed of three parts, “Photosynthesis”, “The Volcano Cycle”, and “Eden in Iraq”. As curator Patricia Levasseur de la Motte states, the work “is not presented as a timeline but as a natural cycle of life, death and rebirth where human beings and nature are deeply connected and exist in true symbiosis.” The first part, “Photosynthesis”, includes images of trees and people exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the seasons, in a post-Edenic and threatened relationship. The second part, “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. Selections from parts one and two are presented in this exhibition. The third part, to be presented in 2016 - 2017, “Eden in Iraq”, is set in the marshes of southern Iraq, a site said to be very near the presumed original Garden of Eden, which currently exists as a manmade desert that is in the process of being restored. The project consists of a wastewater garden and memorial site that aims to transform relics of war and destruction into art and provide a ‘new’ Adam and Eve in the new Eden.
Earlier series from the past 20 years provide a foundation for Rubenstein’s newest work and this presentation includes select artworks from the series: “Critical Mass”, “Oppenheimer's Chair”, “Joan's Arc”, and “Millennial Forest”. “Critical Mass”, a collaborative photo, video and text installation, examined the worlds of scientists and Native Americans as they intersected at the home of Edith Warner during the making of the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico. In July of 1995, the 50th anniversary of the first atomic test at Trinity in New Mexico, also marked the opening of the first Site Santa Fe Biennial, “Longing and Belonging from the Faraway Nearby”, curated by Bruce Ferguson. As a result of her contributions to “Critical Mass”, Rubenstein was commissioned to mark that date with a new work, “Oppenheimer's Chair”, a multimedia installation comprised of glass, photo, video and steel. Robert Oppenheimer was the lead engineer of the Manhattan Project. Glass studies and photographs resulting from those series are part of the current exhibition. Joan’s Arc examines the human body as a battlefield and a trip to Viet Nam by the artist extended the imagery and concept. The human body and spirit have amazing regenerative qualities. “Millennial Forest” consists of images of ancient trees on two different continents at war: Viet Nam and the US, and begs the question of survival and lessons learned from centuries of war and climate change.