The Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts welcomed Rebecca Rutstein, an artist whose work spans painting, sculpture, installation, and public art and explores abstraction inspired by science, data and maps, to the University of Georgia as the third Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding.
Rutstein visited UGA twice during the 2018-19 academic year: in November as part of the national conference of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), and again in March. During each of her visits, Rutstein gave public presentations with the widely known oceanographer Samantha Joye, Athletic Association Professor in Arts and Sciences in the department of marine sciences at UGA.
In addition to her public conversations with Joye and a public talk at Creature Comforts Brewing Co., Rutstein met with MFA and undergraduate classes in the Lamar Dodd School of Art as well as leading students from Clarke and Hillsman middle schools on a tour of her exhibition in the Georgia Museum of Art.
Between the two visits, Rutstein accompanied Joye on an expedition to Mexico’s Guaymas Basin in the Sea of Cortez that included a deep sea dive aboard Alvin, a submersible vessel able to withstand the crushing pressure of the extremes of the deep ocean. While scientists explored hydrothermal vents and carbon cycling processes in the basin, Rutstein set up her studio on the ship and created new works inspired by the data being collected in real time.
Rutstein created a 64-foot-long interactive sculptural installation with laser cut steel and LED lights, and a monumental four-part painting installation that were displayed at the Georgia Museum of Art. She also exhibited a mural-sized banner at the Lamar Dodd School of Art. The sculpture, with its hexagonal forms and reactive lighting, and the shapes present in the paintings were inspired by the hydrocarbon structures and bioluminescence present in Guaymas Basin.
In the process of creating works inspired by geology, microbiology and marine science, Rutstein has previously collaborated with scientists aboard research vessels sailing from the Galápagos Islands to California, Vietnam to Guam, and in the waters surrounding Tahiti. Prior to her expedition with Joye, in October 2018, she made her first descent in Alvin to the ocean floor off of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica with a team of scientists from Temple University.
Rutstein has exhibited widely in museums, institutions and galleries, and has received numerous awards including the prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She has held more than 25 solo exhibitions at venues across the United States.
Joye’s research examines the complex feedbacks that drive elemental cycling in coastal and open ocean environments, and the effects of climate change and anthropogenic disturbances on critical environmental processes to gain a better understanding of how future changes will affect ecosystem functioning. Her work in deep sea extreme environments explores how microbial processes interact with geological and physical processes.
The Delta Visiting Chair, established by the Willson Center through the support of The Delta Air Lines Foundation, hosts outstanding global scholars, leading creative thinkers, artists and intellectuals who teach and perform research at UGA. Its first honoree was Alice Walker in 2015, followed by Colm Tóibín in 2017.
The chair is founded upon the legacy of the Delta Prize for Global Understanding, which from 1997-2011 was presented to individuals – including Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ted Turner, Desmond Tutu, and Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter – whose initiatives promoted world peace by advancing understanding and cooperation among cultures and nations.
Each holder of the Delta Visiting Chair engages the Georgia community through lectures, seminars, discussions and programs; they present global problems in local context by addressing pressing contemporary questions about the economy, society, and the environment – with a focus on how the arts and humanities can intervene in major contemporary issues.