Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest

Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest: ‘I didn’t just want to talk about ‘hey, this is happening,’ without offering solutions.’ Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy

First reading about this in another publication (one that rarely features photographs), the concept was clear, especially if you are familiar with “What Is Missing,” a long-running project about ecological loss. Picturing the result for this new installation was not easy from that first review. The artist’s website offered the photo above, which is also featured in this Guardian review, and Madison Square Park’s website offers an audio tour of the exhibition along with the image below.

On her own website the artist’s description is worth reading:

Ghost Forest, 2021
Madison Square Park, New York, NY
Commissioned by Madison Square park Conservancy
May 10 – November 14, 2021
49 Atlantic Cedar trees (36 – 46 feet)

Photography: Maya Lin Studio / Andy Romer, courtesy MSPC

Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest, brings a towering stand of forty-nine Atlantic white cedar trees, victims of salt water inundation due to climate change to downtown manhattan’s Madison Square Park. A 6 month installation- this majestic grove of cut trees will slowly turn grayer and more ghostly as the park’s grand living trees go through all seasons- starting in winter and returning to winter by the end of the installation- Lin brings her vision as an artist and her agency as an environmental activist to this project. Ghost Forest is a haunting symbol of the devastation of climate change.

Climate change is threatening forests around the world and creating mass die-offs of once vibrant woodlands. They are referred to as ghost forests and this phenomena is becoming much more frequent as the climate changes more rapidly. The trees in Ghost Forest were suffering from of salt water infiltration and were being cleared as part of regeneration efforts in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, an extremely vulnerable site of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem which encompasses more than one million acres.

As part of the installation, the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy have planned a series of public programs throughout the run of the exhibition focused on nature-based solutions to climate change. For more info go to for more information on nature based solutions to climate change.

Also, as part of the artwork the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy are working with Natural Areas Conservancy who are planting 1,000 trees and shrubs within the 5 boroughs to offset the emissions caused by the creation of the artwork.

Maya Lin in conjunction with her Ghost Forest installation and her environmental initiative- What is Missing? along with Madison Square Park Conservancy has created a soundscape that highlights the sounds of some of the native species of animals that were once common to Manhattan. And an accompanying ghost forest timeline.

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