Ghost Forest, 2021. 49 Atlantic white cedars, installation view. Photo: Andy Romer, Courtesy the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy

Object Lessons: Maya Lin

I knew I wanted to create something for Madison Square Park that would be intimately related to the park itself, the trees, and the state of the earth. Throughout the world, climate change is causing vast tracts of forested lands to die off. They are called “ghost forests.” They are killed off by rising temperatures, extreme weather events that yield salt-water intrusion, fires, and insects, which are thriving in warmer temperatures. I wanted to bring a ghost forest to the heart of Manhattan—and to use trees that were as close to Manhattan as I possibly could find. In the Pine Barrens, we located large stands of Atlantic white cedars that had died due to extreme weather. Atlantic white cedars, which were once a dominant tree species along the Atlantic seaboard, have been reduced to less than 10 percent of their original habitat. As part of the installation, we are coordinating public programs that focus on nature-based solutions to climate change, as well as highlighting the ecological history of Manhattan through a soundscape of species once common in the city.