Article By Olivia Damavandi / Special to The Malibu Times
Many people have read Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled,” but few have actually taken it. Among them is Malibu native Michael Rubin, who was planning on attending medical school after graduating from UC Santa Barbara in 2007. But life had something different in store.
“I did well enough on the admissions exams, though ultimately decided med school wasn’t for me,” Rubin said. “It was then that my girlfriend and I decided to move out of our apartment, sell our car and travel to South America for a while. We’ve been doing that for about nine months now.”
This isn’t the average story about a post-graduate gallivanting about the globe to postpone the inevitable fate of a nine to five. Through his travels, Rubin further cultivated the Bachelor of Fine Arts he earned from UCSB. His first international solo exhibition, “Mind Your Hands,” is set to open at P.O.P.A. Galeria De Arte in Buenos Aires, Argentina next month. The exhibition, he said, blurs the lines between sculpture, photography, video and performance. As an emerging artist, he has pulled if off with no financial backing from institutions or grants.
Rubin’s art is far from ordinary. One photo called “S-Curve” is a head-on shot of a man driving a car filled with Styrofoam bubbles. Another, “Botoga, Colombia,” shows pedestrians walking past the side of a building, where the bottom half of a man’s body is protruding from it onto the sidewalk. A half-headed skull with a bulging brain, a man wearing a rabbit mask draped in cartoon-generated rabbits’ feet, and a plate of kabob with a rainbow halo are just some examples of what you’ll find on his Web site, www.mikerubin.org.
Want to see what it’s like to spend three days on a cargo ship on the Amazon River, or watch a lamb eating grass for five minutes and twenty-five seconds? Check out the blog section of the site. You’ll be inspired to travel.
While Rubin’s work is fun to admire, the intellect behind it should not be ignored.
It seems his pre-med school ambition is still very much a part of his creative mind. Each piece of his art, especially those featured in “Mind Your Hands,” is developed through immense research.
Rubin said one of his favorite works in “Mind Your Hands” is an installation piece for which he is currently seeking donations to help him assemble. It is a performance piece that explores people’s relationships with objects that represent their subconscious minds. (A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.)
“Currently my research revolves around the specific relationship a person may develop with objects created from their own subconscious,” Rubin said. “This is achieved through a series of interviews that are conducted in a control setting I’ve designed in my studio.”
The investigation, he said, primarily circles a particular dream or memory to which the interviewee ascribes a certain level of importance. Rubin’s task is to recreate the dream through art, using objects that represent it.
“As a result, these two forms of subconscious information inadvertently supply ample amount of visual material from which I choose to create an object, image or performance based on the confessed event,” Rubin said. “I then present this realized manifestation to the person I’m interviewing and use single channel video recording to document the response. The unique experience felt by the singular person at the precise moment of the initial interaction is the work itself.”
Rubin’s eye-catching work has garnered the attention of many who are eager to see the exhibition. One of them is his former professor, Kip Fulbeck.
“His drive to excel and constantly learn is enviable,” Professor Fulbeck said. “Mike used to ask me [like many students do] for extra recommendations in film, art, literature, etc. But the difference between him and the other students was he’d consume the work immediately. I’d give him a half dozen films to see and the next week he’d come to my studio to talk about all of them. I’m looking forward to seeing his new work.”
Rubin plans to go back to school to get a master’s degree in Fine Arts but said the lessons he has learned thus far are perhaps just as valuable, if not more, than those taught in the classroom.
“I’ve learned to just have the confidence to pursue a role where your true interest really lies,” Rubin said. “It may be one of the most difficult decisions in your life, but ultimately the most valuable. I suppose I could have gone through with the decision to attend medical school, and received a nice paycheck on the regular, but the day-to-day wouldn’t have made me all that happy. Pursuing a career in the arts can initially appear next to impossible and be fairly intimidating in regards to the zero or little financial security, but once I went for it head-on, it all worked out for the best. Just goes to show you that if you’re so inclined you can achieve more than most people account for.”
Though his route from Malibu to South America may lead some to label him a nomad, it appears Rubin knows exactly where he’s going.
“Mind Your Hands” opens May 14. Donations can be made and more information can be obtained online at http://www.mikerubin.org