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Maya Lin Artist Statement

Nov 9, 2021 | Art

Maya Lin Artist Statement

Screen Shot 2021 11 03 At 5.01.49 PM
Screen Shot 2021 11 03 At 5.01.59 PM

Ghost Forest
May 10 – November 14, 2021
Madison Square Park, New York

Throughout the world, climate change is causing vast tracts of forested lands to die off. They are being called ghost forests; they are being killed off by rising temperatures, extreme weather events that yield saltwater intrusion, forest fires, and insects whose populations are thriving in these warmer temperatures, and trees that are more susceptible to beetles due to being overstressed from these rising temperatures.

As I approached thinking about a sculptural installation for Madison Square Park, I knew I wanted to create something that would be intimately related to the park itself, the trees, and the state of the earth.

Being more accustomed to making permanent large-scale works out of earth and grass, I knew a different approach had to be taken — that I wanted to create something transient and temporal rather than creating a work that felt more like one of my permanent pieces. It is not a time frame I am familiar with in my outdoor installations. So much of my artwork focuses on species and habitat loss and the effects of climate change. But also how by protecting and restoring habitats we can absorb climate change emissions and protect species. I have established a not-for-profit foundation — What is Missing? — that has for the past decade focused as well on these issues.  

I had first considered bringing a living willow walk to the park — but the more I explored and thought about this, I could not stop looking at the ghost forest right outside my studio in Colorado which looks out onto national forest lands.

I wanted to bring a ghost forest to the heart of Manhattan — and to find trees that were as close to Manhattan as I possibly could find. All of us involved in the project were concerned not to bring in trees that had been killed by beetles lest we introduce a new species into the City that could potentially wreak havoc on Manhattan’s trees, so we started to look for trees that were the victims of extreme weather events related to climate change. 

We were able to locate in the Pine Barrens large stands of dead Atlantic white cedars that have died off due to extreme weather events related to climate change, wind events, fire, sea-level rise, saltwater infiltration, and bad forestry practices. Atlantic white cedars that once were a dominant tree species along the Atlantic seaboard have been reduced to under ten percent of their original habitat.  

We have very little time left to change our climate change emission patterns and how we live within the natural world. I wanted to bring awareness to a die-off that is happening all over the world. I also feel that a potential solution is through nature-based practices — changing our forestry practices, reforming our agricultural and ranching practices and increasing our wetlands. These nature-based solutions can potentially offset and sequester over fifty percent of the world’s emissions and would help protect and ensure that the Earth’s biodiversity is increased and restored. 

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 climate change emissions by changing our relationship to the land itself. 

Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest is on view through Sunday, November 14.

Ghost Forest is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Leadership support for this exhibition is generously provided by The Ruth Stanton Foundation. Major support for the exhibition is generously provided by Agnes Gund, Amazon, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder Foundation, and Pace Gallery. Substantial support is provided by the Ford Foundation, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, The Scintilla Foundation, Marders, Con Edison, and the Henry Moore Foundation. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology kindly provided material, expertise, and editing support for the soundscape. Madison Square Park Conservancy acknowledges the generous contributions of Colin McLaughlin, Advanced Forestry Solutions, and Bob Williams, Pine Creek Forestry.

Support for the exhibition catalogue is generously provided by the James Howell Foundation.

Ghost Forest is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

Major support for the art program is provided by Sasha C. Bass, Bunny and Charles Burson, Toby Devan Lewis, Ronald A. Pizzuti, Thornton Tomasetti, Tiffany & Co., Anonymous, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. Substantial support is provided by Charina Endowment Fund, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Sol LeWitt Fund for Artist Work, Madison Square Park Conservancy Art Council, Audrey, and Danny Meyer, and The Rudin Family. Additional support is provided by 400 Park Avenue South, The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, Irving Harris Foundation, Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, and Fern and Lenard Tessler.

Madison Square Park Conservancy is a public/private partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.


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