Each week, Artful spotlights an art experience or destination that speaks to us right now.
The artist and architect Maya Lin is well known for her memorials, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. (the design of which made her famous as a college senior when it was the prizewinning entry in a national competition). Her latest public work, a site-specific installation in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, is not so much a remembrance as a reminder of an ongoing trauma: climate change, with its attendant losses of species and habitats. “I wanted to bring awareness to a die-off that is happening all over the world,” Lin writes in an artist statement for the project.
In her “Ghost Forest,” which runs through November 14, forty-nine dead Atlantic white cedars are surrounded by lush, living trees—forming a kind of haunted grove within the park. (The trees come from a restoration project in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, and were slated to be cleared anyway in the process of encouraging regeneration.) On the accompanying audio tour, the park’s art curator Brooke Kamin Rappoport calls the installation “visually stark and emotionally meditative.”
As they wander around the pale trunks, visitors can also listen to a soundscape created by Lin in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; it features recordings of some of the animal species that inhabited the land that is now Manhattan when it was home to the Lenape (Delaware) people. “Ghost Forest” is a way of acknowledging their grief as well.
The public programs planned around the installation sound a more hopeful note, envisioning nature-based solutions to climate change. In September and October, 1,000 trees and shrubs will be planted in city parks in partnership with Natural Areas Conservancy. A digital symposium on “Greening Public Art” is also planned, for June 4. (Check the park calendar for a full list of events). As Lin writes, “We are faced with an enormous ecological crisis—but I also feel that we have a chance to showcase what can be done to help protect species and significantly reduce the climate change emissions by changing our relationship to the land itself.”