Public parks have become a gathering place for society since the pandemic started as a place to safely meet friends with social distancing, and what better place for public art? If there’s any way to reach a wider audience, its art in a park. Now, visitors of Madison Square Park in New York City will see one public art called Ghost Forest by Colorado-based artist Maya Lin. Launching May 10, it recreates a skeletal forest of trees destroyed by climate change.
“I knew I wanted to create something that would be intimately related to the park itself, the trees, and the state of the earth,” Lin tells AD. “I have been drawn to the natural world to reveal things that help make you aware of your own surroundings.”
The artworks stand 30 feet high and tap into how forestry professionals describe woodlands that have dried out, usually because of rising sea levels and saltwater that destroys their ability to stay alive (think back to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when sea levels surged and forests suffered).
According to Brooke Kamin Rapaport, chief curator of Madison Square Park Conservancy, 60,000 people walk through Madison Square Park every day. The artist is no stranger to environmental activism: She founded a site in 2012 called What Is Missing?, a foundation that acts as an online memorial to what we’ve lost to climate change. Lin notes that climate change is causing forests to die due to rising temperatures, extreme weather events that yield saltwater intrusion and forest fires. “I wanted to create something that would be intimately related to the park itself, the trees, and the state of the earth,” says Lin.
She wanted to make something temporary with locally sourced materials. That led her to the Pinelands, known as the Pine Barrens, a forest in New Jersey. The artworks on view are actual Atlantic Cedar trees, which once stood in the forest.