Hugh Hayden: Brier Patch
Artist Hugh Hayden has realized his most ambitious installation to date with a new public artwork commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy. Presented across four separate lawns in the park, Brier Patch features a total of one-hundred wooden elementary school-style desks that erupt with tree branches, cohering into tangled assemblies with complex and layered meanings. The accumulations of desks summon the grid arrangement of classroom seating. Referencing folklore traditions around the world, the work calls on the notion of the brier patch as a place protective for some and dangerous for others, drawing connections to similar disparities within the education system and the ideal of the American Dream. On view from January 18 through May 1, 2022, Brier Patch is complemented by a suite of public programs centered on storytelling and education.
“In Hugh Hayden’s project, the overgrown configuration of branches overwhelms and encumbers the placidity of seats of childhood learning. Hayden imbues each of his works with intense meaning that, when peeled back, reveals lived experiences about rooted systems in our country and the world. He transforms everyday objects into new forms that expose the properties and purpose of the original source,” said Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Deputy Director and Martin Friedman Chief Curator of Madison Square Park Conservancy. “Brier Patch is both visually powerful and loaded with inherent tensions—growth and stagnation, seduction and peril, individual and community—that ask us to consider how these dichotomies coexist in engrained systems and the work on view.”