Member Spotlight: Meridel Rubenstein

October 18, 2021

This week we recognize the work of artist Meridel Rubenstein.

The Eden in Iraq Wastewater Garden Project (2011-present) is a humanitarian water remediation project, expressed through wastewater garden design and environmental art, that provides environmental and cultural regeneration to a desiccated region of southern Iraq. This project is a collaboration between co-directors artist/photographer Meridel Rubenstein and environmental engineer Dr. Davide Tocchetto, with environmental engineer Dr. Mark Nelson and engineer and managing director Nature Iraq NGO, Jassim Al-Asadi.

The Garden will provide urgently needed health and clean water for southern Iraqis, their children, and future generations to come. This project, sponsored by NGO Nature Iraq in Iraq and the Institute of Ecotechnics in both the UK and USA, is a response to decades of conflict in this region and continued tension due to climate change, external water rights violations, and social upheaval. Initial support since 2011 spans from Iraqi municipalities, the region and State, to international sources; most recently, the Eden in Iraq Wastewater Garden Project was chosen as one out of 100 grassroots projects for UNESCO’s Green Citizens Initiative.

The wastewater garden will feature locally significant design details, making it an engaging public site that emphasizes cultural heritage, while restoring health and offering ecological education. It will provide a sanctuary for reflection and relaxation in a continuously unsettled time. The garden design will engage with local craftspeople, local materials, and ancient crafts e.g. reed structures, earthen brick, ancient cylinder seal patterns for ceramic tiles, and a floral design layout that is inspired by Mesopotamian embroidered wedding blanket patterns (now being revived locally).

Eden in Iraq offers a solution to contaminated water through the utilization of simple and sustainable wastewater recycling technology to support a garden that embodies the rich cultural heritage and tradition of the marshes and the Marsh Arab community. For those millions of migrants afloat in Europe today, the Marsh Arabs of the Mesopotamian marshes in Southern Iraq offer a stunning example of a violently displaced people returning home to heal and restore their desertified land.

Meridel Rubenstein began her career as a photographer in the early 1970s, and slowly evolved from taking single photographic images to becoming an artist of extended works and multi-media installations. She studied with noted photographer Minor White at MIT and received her MA and MFA in photography from the University of New Mexico. From the start, her art has urged awareness of how we are connected to place. Rubenstein has been an active arts educator for over thirty years, having headed the MFA Photography Program at San Francisco State University. She has exhibited widely, including at Brian Gross Fine Art in San Francisco, Chan Hampe Gallery Singapore, and the Louvre in Paris. Rubenstein has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Bunting Institute at Harvard University, and awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Pollock Krasner and the Rockefeller Foundations. meridelrubenstein.com

Featured Images Above: ©Meridel Rubenstein, Eden in Iraq, 2011-present.

IMPORTANT: The Eden in Iraq team recently signed an agreement with the Center for Restoration of Iraqi Marshes and Wetlands (CRIMW) to implement the first stage of the Wastewater Garden. Meridel Rubenstein in Iraq below.

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ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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