Arts & Humanities

Museum celebrates meeting of art and science

Rebecca Rutstein’s painting, part of “Progenitor Series,” is on display at the Georgia of Museum of Art Nov. 1 through October 2019. The work is part of the exhibition “Out of the Darkness: Light in the Depths of the Sea of Cortez.” (Photo by Karen Mauch)

The exhibition “Out of the Darkness: Light in the Depths of the Sea of Cortez” by Rebecca Rutstein will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia beginning Nov. 1.

Rutstein is both an award-winning artist and an ocean explorer. This fall, as UGA’s Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding, she will embark on her fifth deep-sea expedition/artist’s residency, with a team of scientists led by the University of Georgia’s Samantha Joye and the University of North Carolina’s Andreas Teske. While the scientists study hydrothermal vents and the unique carbon-cycling processes occurring in Mexico’s Guaymas Basin in the Sea of Cortez, Rutstein will set up her studio on the ship and create new works inspired by the data they’re collecting in real time. The works on display in the year-long exhibition were commissioned as part of her tenure as Delta Visiting Chair.

An immersive 64-foot-long steel sculpture installation will be on display in the museum’s Patsy Dudley Pate Balcony through the following October. It contains hexagonal sculptural forms and reactive LED lights that will create trails mimicking the movements of the viewer. Its forms were inspired by data Joye previously collected on the hydrocarbon structures and bioluminescence present in the Guaymas Basin.

The exhibition will also include “Progenitor Series,” a 22-foot-tall painting installation spanning two stories in the museum’s M. Smith Griffith Grand Hall and on view through March 31. The vertical orientation is inspired by the water column and Joye’s 2,200-meter descent to the ocean floor at Guaymas Basin. In each canvas of the series, Rutstein shifts scale and orientation while utilizing various data collected at sea, including sonar maps of hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. Through the lens of abstraction and with her continued interest in the fractal geometry of nature, Rutstein sheds light on the little-known processes at Guaymas Basin, connecting us with this hidden realm.

“We are fortunate to work with an artist so expertly skilled in the languages of both art and science,” said Annelies Mondi, the museum’s deputy director. “Rebecca is gifted in translating the veiled mysteries of the natural world so that through her sculpture and painting, we can all experience the wonder of our surroundings.”

The Delta Visiting Chair is an annual position established by UGA’s Willson Center for Humanities and Arts through the support of the Delta Air Lines Foundation that hosts outstanding global scholars, leading creative thinkers, artists and intellectuals who present global problems in local context, with a focus on how the arts and humanities can inform conversations on major contemporary issues. In addition to supporting the commission of the works in this exhibition, Rutstein’s Delta Visiting Chair appointment will bring her to the UGA campus for two public events this academic year.

The exhibition opens during UGA’s annual Spotlight on the Arts festival, and coincides with the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) conference, at which Rustein and Joye will take part in a public conversation moderated by Willson Center Director Nicholas Allen on Nov. 2 at 9 a.m. in Mahler Hall in the Georgia Center for Continuing Education and Hotel. Rutstein will return for a second event with Joye in the museum’s M. Smith Griffith Auditorium on March 28, 2019.

Since earning her master of fine arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997, the Philadelphia-based artist has extensively exhibited her paintings, installations, public art and sculptures throughout the U.S. With works inspired by geology, microbiology and marine science, she has had more than 25 solo exhibitions at venues such as Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art (Kansas City, Missouri), the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks, the John Hartell Gallery (Ithaca, New York), Zane Bennett Contemporary Art (Santa Fe, New Mexico) and the Bridgette Mayer Gallery (Philadelphia).

Rutstein has been commercially represented by the Bridgette Mayer Gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania since 2001. She has previously collaborated with scientists aboard research vessels sailing from the Galápagos Islands to California, from Vietnam to Guam and in the waters surrounding Tahiti. She will also be making her first descent in the Alvin submersible to the ocean floor off of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica with a team of scientists from Temple University this month, returning just in time for the a2ru conference. While recently she has been reinterpreting sonar mapping data of the ocean floor within her work, she has also shed light on land-based geological phenomenons. Rutstein’s artistic adventures include residencies in Iceland, Hawaii, the Canadian Rockies, Washington’s San Juan Islands, California’s Santa Cruz Mountains and along the banks of the Gihon River in Vermont.

Rutstein’s additional awards include a Percent for Art Commission with Temple University, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, an Independence Foundation Fellowship and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grant. Her work has been featured on NPR and in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Vice Magazine and New American Paintings. Her work can be found in public collections including those of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum and Temple University, as well as in private and corporate collections throughout the United States.

Related events at the museum include:

  • Family Day on Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to noon
  • Toddler Tuesday on Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. (register via or 706-542-0448)
  • 90 Carlton: Winter, the museum’s quarterly reception, on Feb. 8 ($5, free for members)
  • A public tour with Annelies Mondi on March 20 at 2 p.m.
  • A lecture by Rutstein on March 28 at 5:30 p.m.

All programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.