Maya Lin will hang a grove of dead trees in Madison Square Park

Ghost Forest

Maya Lin will hang a grove of dead trees in Madison Square Park

Climate activist and artist Maya Lin will open her new project Ghost Forest in June of 2020. (Jesse Frohman/Courtesy the artist)

[Editor’s note: As of February 9, 2021, the premiere of Ghost Forest has been postponed due to COVID. The installation will now open on May 10, 2021, and run through November 14, 2021.]

Architect-artist Maya Lin is bringing a series of spectral cedar trees to New York’s Madison Square Park next year to shed light on the effects of climate change

Talk about a timely topic. 

On view from June 8, 2020, through December 13, Ghost Forest will feature a grove of regionally-sourced dead trees to stand in contrast to the Flatiron park’s lush summer landscape. The installation will show visitors first-hand the phenomena that occur year-round around the world as trees fall ill and die because of rising sea levels, salt-water inundation, and resource deprivation. Specifically, the trees chosen by Lin will come from the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, a massive sandy forest on a coastal plain that is afflicted with poor soil. A 1.1-million-acre national reserve, the landscape was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy due to a build up of salt in the soil. 

Sketch of thin dead trees hung in green park
Sketch of Ghost Forest in Madison Square Park. (Courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery)

While located very close to the major cities of New York and Philadelphia, little is publicly known about the Pine Barrens and its plight, which is why Lin aims to demonstrate just how close-to-home ghost forests really are and to educate people on how to protect and restore natural ecosystems. The trees used in the installation will help clear the way for the regeneration of the surrounding species and shine awareness on other dying forests in North America, from South Carolina’s barrier islands to beaches along the Oregon and Washington coasts. 

Sketch of trees
A sketch of Ghost Forest (Courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery)

Ghost Forest is the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s 40th public art commission. To Brooke Kamin Rapaport, deputy director and chief curator, Lin’s piece will embody the spirit of the organization. “The Conservancy’s public art commissions are transient by nature,” she said in a statement. “Ghost Forest underscores the concept of transience and fragility, and stands as a grave reminder of the consequences of inaction to the climate crisis. Within a minimal visual language of austerity and starkness, Lin brings her role as an environmental activist and her vision as an artist to this work.”

Lin has long-been an advocate for environmental sustainability and has explored climate change in various projects including her What is Missing? series, an ongoing project on the loss of biodiversity which she considers her final memorial.