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Installation view, Maya Lin: Ghost Forest, May 10 – November 14, 2021, Madison Square Park, New York © Maya Lin Studio

Artist Projects

Maya Lin

Ghost Forest

Madison Square Park, New York
May 10 – Nov 14, 2021

Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest, a towering stand of forty-nine haunting Atlantic white cedar trees, is a newly-commissioned public art work. Lin brings her vision as an artist and her agency as an environmental activist to this project, a memory of germination, vegetation, and abundance and a harsh symbol of the devastation of climate change. The height of each tree, around forty feet, overwhelms human scale and stands as a metaphor of the outsized impact of a looming environmental calamity. 

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Installation view, Maya Lin: Ghost Forest, May 10 – November 14, 2021, Madison Square Park, New York © Maya Lin Studio. Photo: Andy Romer

In nature, a ghost forest is the evidence of a dead woodland that was once vibrant. Atlantic white cedar populations on the East Coast are endangered by past forestry practices and threats from climate change, including extreme weather events that yield salt water intrusion, wind events, and fire. The trees in Ghost Forest were all slated to be cleared as part of regeneration efforts in the fragile ecosystem of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. 

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Installation view, Maya Lin: Ghost Forest, May 10 – November 14, 2021, Madison Square Park, New York © Maya Lin Studio

The magnitude of planetary vulnerability is a significant subject in Lin’s practice through sculpture, installation, and her web-based resource, What Is Missing?. Now two generations removed from the Earthwork artists of the 1960s and 1970s, Lin is taking on rural and urban outdoor space with a focus on geology and the fragility of the earth’s ecosystem.

A series of virtual public events as well as in-person, socially distanced programs at the Park will complement the installation. These include a new soundscape composed by Lin in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that weaves together the calls and songs of endangered and extinct animals once native to the New York City area, as well as a series of meditative music performances inspired by nature and presented within the installation in conjunction with Carnegie Hall. The project will culminate in the fall with the planting of 1,000 native trees and shrubs in public natural area parks throughout each of New York City’s five boroughs. In addition to these programs, Madison Square Park Conservancy will host its sixth annual public art symposium on June 4, a dynamic virtual event exploring key issues raised by Ghost Forest, anchored by a keynote conversation with Maya Lin moderated by Andrew Revkin of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

To read more, please visit Artnet News, The New York Times, or Madison Square Park Conservancy's website.

Artist Projects — Maya Lin's Ghost Forest in Madison Square Park, New York, Nov 25, 2019