photo by Linda Lyn Carfagno 2023
Meridel Rubenstein began her professional career in the early 1970s, evolving from photographer of single photographic images to artist of extended photographic works, multi-media installations, and environmental social practice. Her focus has been on intersections of nature and culture in relationship to ecological and social imbalance. Threads of ancient myth and the status of nature during periods of war have been woven throughout her projects for decades.

Professor of Art, Photography, and Ecology, Meridel has maintained her art studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico since 1975. She is currently an adjunct professor at the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, after long residencies at Nanyang Technological University, Smith College, and San Francisco State.

Her most recent creative work runs in two parallel directions: artwork and social practice.

The Boat is a Circle, in collaboration with American artist in Sweden, Joanne Grune-Yanoff, takes the Mesopotamia Flood story predating the Biblical Noah’s Ark as a way to visualize who and what will survive our current environmental crisis. This installation uses photography, video, and sculpture.

In 2011, Rubenstein initiated and is Project Director of the Eden in Iraq Wastewater Garden Project. This interdisciplinary water remediation project in the wetlands of Southern Iraq (thought to be a possible site of the historic Garden of Eden), uses art, design, environmental engineering, and wastewater to make a restorative garden for health, cultural heritage, and environmental education.
In August 2023, she was awarded the Anonymous Was a Woman Environmental Art Grant to make Inanna Returns to the Marshes as a Mosaic, the first commissioned artwork for the garden that is being built in El Chibaish. She will collaborate with Iraq artist and conservator in Baghdad, Nawar Ihsan, and ceramic artist Shel Neymark in New Mexico.

In conjunction with Christopher Nolan’s film OPPENHEIMER, photoworks from the collaborative exhibition Critical Mass from 1993 were exhibited at the Santa Fe Center for Contemporary Art in the summer of 2023 followed by a fall exhibition at the Amarillo Museum of Art. This work provided the film with context and contrast. It is both heartening that this work resonated so strongly after 30 years and equally disheartening that these issues are still relevant.

Rubenstein has exhibited internationally in numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, including at the Louvre in Paris and Artists’ Space and MOMA in New York Coity. Permanent collections that house her work include the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany. Her numerous awards include a Guggenheim, three NEA awards, and a Bunting Fellowship at Harvard.

In October 2004, BELONGING: Los Alamos to Vietnamw as published by St. Ann’s Press in Los Angeles. This major monograph of twenty years of her work includes texts by environmental writer Terry Tempest Williams, cultural theorist Elaine Scarry, and renowned art writers James Crump, Lucy Lippard, and art and cultural critic Rebecca Solnit. Solnit has written of Rubenstein: “A consummate maker of metaphors, an artist who can never talk about only one thing at a time, but speaks of things in relationship, of lives to landscapes, of corporeal location and homing in terms of labyrinths and minotaurs, of bombs in terms of other myths, of physicists in relationship to pueblos.”

Her second monograph Eden Turned on its Side was published in 2017 by the University of New Mexico Art Museum, with essays by curator, Dr. Shawn Michelle Smith and Alan Weisman. Lucy R.Lippard, art writer, and cultural critic wrote: “Eden Turned on Its Side is a dazzling demonstration of the ways beauty (via inventive art and photography) can illuminate the earth’s most crucial issues, offering hope for a different world than the one we are barging into.”

Rubenstein is represented by Turner Carroll Gallery in Santa Fe.

photo by Eric Swanson