Barton Rubenstein

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Barton Rubenstein
Washington, DC
EducationHaverford College , Weizmann Institute of Science, Corcoran College of Art and Design
Notable work
Water, Wind Kinetic and Vertical Sculptures

Barton Rubenstein (born 1962) is a modernist American sculptor. Rubenstein has focused most of his artistic efforts on themes related to water and kinetics. He lives in Maryland with his wife and three kids.

Early life[edit]

His mother, Daryl Reich Rubenstein, was an art historian and curator at the Smithsonian institution.[1] Rubenstein grew up in Washington, DC, attending Sidwell Friends School. He spent much of his childhood visiting museums in the United States and Europe. Led by his father, Lee Rubenstein, the family gained a reputation for creating large snow sculptures.[2] Rubenstein spent much of his childhood creating projects with his hands, such as motorized go-carts.[3] He also enjoyed sailing and canoeing, which he continues to this day. This has had a powering impact on his art.[4]

First a Scientist[edit]

Water Sculpture • "Oasis," by Barton Rubenstein, 2004, Weizmann Institute of Science,Israel

He went to Haverford College, Pennsylvania, where he received a BSc in Physics (1985)[5] and a minor in art.[6] At the time, Rubenstein had aspirations to be a scientist and received a full scholarship to attend the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. He first obtained a MSc in Mathematics and Computer Science (1990). He then continued with his doctoral studies, culminating in a PhD in neuroscience (1994).[7] During his time at the Weizmann Institute, his research focused on the visual brain. With his advisor, Professor Dov Sagi, he was able to resolve a 30-year-old scientific dilemma, which tried to understand how the human visual system is able to effortlessly discriminate between different types of visual textures, such as tree bark. They published their findings in the Optical Society of America (1990).[8] Another accomplishment of his laboratory was elucidating the learning process in the brain. It was determined that after practicing a visual task, a consolidation period of at least six hours was needed before any improvement occurs. The expressions, "cramming before a test will not be of any benefit" and "sleeping on it" are adages that are supported by this research. To further this research, Rubenstein and colleagues wondered whether a certain stage of sleep was responsible for this consolidation. Their findings, reported in the Journal of Science (1994),[9] show conclusively that the consolidation of visually learned tasks occurs during the dream stage (REM). These findings began a resurgence in the study of sleep. Rubenstein and colleagues’s research has been further cited and discussed in various publications, including Scientific American[10] and the New York Times.[11]


With the possibility of a post doctorate position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Rubenstein instead deferred for a year to begin creating metal sculpture. He enrolled at the Corcoran College of Art and Design for a semester to learn the techniques of welding, mold making, and the lost wax process. He created a body of sculptures incorporating water. These water sculptures launched him into the art world (1994), beginning a cascade of exhibitions and commissions in the United States and internationally. His work, primarily of stainless steel and bronze, is human scale and monumental in size. One of his works, Ray of Light, won an arts competition in Redwood City, California and also serves as a bird bath.[12]

In addition to his water sculptures, Rubenstein also creates wind kinetic sculpture. These sculptures use a novel design, invented by the artist, which creates a slow back-and-forth movement in his art.[13] This movement has a dance-like quality and has been likened to the waltz. Rubenstein also creates what he calls "sculpture in suspension," which juxtaposes sculptural elements so they appear to be swooping across space and "ignoring gravity."

Among the modernist sculptors who have influenced Rubenstein are George Rickey and Henry Moore.

Mother Earth Project[edit]

In 2015, Rubenstein with his family began the Mother Earth Project,[14] MEP, a global environment-saving initiative. This project activates sustainability worldwide engaging communities to create Parachutes For The Planet®, 12' diameter play parachutes that are decorated with artwork and a community's next sustainable actions. They display these parachutes locally, strike with them, and then take them to their local politicians to demand better climate laws. As of 2020, thousands of parachutes have been distributed to over 70 countries, many of them documented on the MEP social media platform and on its website (Instagram @MotherEarthProject). Also, to acknowledge a country's efforts to be more sustainable and follow the 2015 Paris Agreement, MEP is placing the “Mother Earth” sculpture in cities worldwide. This sculpture is the footprint of the project and is the Symbol of Sustainability. MEP had its inaugural Mother Earth sculpture dedication on April, 2017 in Washington, DC[15] and there is now a Mother Earth sculpture in China, Israel, Cameroon, Germany, Argentina, and India, covering five continents.

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award, Sidwell Friends School, Washington, DC
  • 2013 Creativity Award, Moment Magazine,[16] Washington, DC
  • Rubenstein has been awarded numerous commissions as the result of national competitions. These projects range from academic institutions, hospitals, libraries, banks, veteran homes, and state projects.[17]
  • 2010 Rubenstein received an official citation from the Maryland General Assembly for his contribution to public art.
  • 2005 Rubenstein served as member of a committee at the National Academies to design the next generation US currency. The redesigned $100 bill is the result of design change recommendations made by this committee.


  1. ^ Kate Oczypok, "From Science to Sculpting,", Oct 17, 2010 Archived August 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Jacqueline Duda, "Art of Perception," In Sight Magazine, MD, June, 2007.
  3. ^ Ellyn Wexler, "Arts & Sciences: The Twain Shall Meet in Sculptor’s Work," Montgomery Gazette, MD, April 28, 2000 Archived March 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^
  5. ^ Rosemary Knower, "Sculptures in Steel Archived March 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine," Home and Design Magazine, July–August, 2004
  6. ^ Ellen Wexler, "Arts & Sciences: The Twain Shall Meet in Sculptor’s Work," Montgomery Gazette, MD, April 28, 2000
  7. ^ "Made at the Institute: Blending Art and Science," Interface Magazine, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, Spring-Summer, 2008 Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Barton S Rubenstein and Dov Sagi, "Spatial variability as a limiting factor in texture-discrimination tasks: implications for performance asymmetries," Journal of the Optical Society of America A, Vol 7, pp 1632-1643, (1990).
  9. ^ A Karni, D Tanne, BS Rubenstein, JJ Askenasy, and D Sagi, "Dependence on REM Sleep of Overnight Improvement of a Perceptual Skill," Science, Vol 265, pp.679-682 (1994).
  10. ^ Jonathan Winson, "The Meaning of Dreams," Scientific American, August, 2002
  11. ^ Benedict Carey, "An Active, Purposeful Machine That Comes Out at Night to Play." New York Times, October, 23,2007
  12. ^ Rubenstein, Barton (2017). "Ray of Light". Rubenstein Studios. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
  13. ^
  14. ^ George Altshuler, "Chevy Chase Sculptor Takes Familial Approach To Helping Environment." Washington Jewish Week, December 23, 2016
  15. ^ Heather Ingram, "Enough Tears, How about a Giant Climate Celebration," Dirt Magazine, 2017
  16. ^ "Barton Rubenstein, 2013 Moment Magazine Creativity Award Recipient," Moment Magazine, 2013
  17. ^ Chris Hunteman, "A rough portrait: Maryland's art industry struggles to cope with recession," Gazette Newspapers, Maryland, Jan 15, 2010 Archived March 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]