The wreckage of war, it once flourished with a landscape of reeds, trees and the chlorophyll of life. The mythic, historic and geological nexus of the Garden of Eden, it was scorched and drained by Saddam Hussein in 1991 in retaliation for popular uprisings during a cease-fire in the Gulf War.
Photographer Meridel Rubeinstein captured this tragedy and the hopeful greenery that is returning in “From Eden in Iraq, Ehmad and His Boat, Central Marshes,” 2011-2012. The piece is part of the exhibition “Eden Turned On Its Side,” opening at the University of New Mexico Art Museum on Saturday, Feb. 3.
A UNM alumna, Rubenstein has long been drawn to concepts of home, place and the environment. The show marks the first time her series “Photosynthesis,” “Volcano Cycle” and “Eden in Iraq” have been grouped in a major photographic exhibition. “Photosynthesis” focuses on the natural cycle of the seasons and our dependence on trees. “Volcano Cycle” documents the active volcanoes of the Indonesia to explore environmental change on a non-human scale. “Eden in Iraq” examines environmental devastation and renewal at the site of the biblical Eden.
“My work has always been concerned with place and home,” Rubenstein said in a telephone interview from Singapore. “The planet became home through this three-part work.”