Maya Lin’s ‘Ghost Forest’ Brings Attention to Dying Trees, Climate Crisis


Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., created a “Ghost Forest” art exhibit to bring awareness to the dangers of climate change and its impact on trees.

The exhibit, located in downtown Manhattan, features 49 lifeless Atlantic Cedar trees that have been replanted into the ground. The trees were sourced from the Pinelands in New Jersey. “Ghost Forest” premiered on May 10 and will be open until Nov. 14.

“I knew I wanted to create something that would be intimately related to the park itself, the trees, and the state of the earth,” Lin said in an interview with Architectural Digest. “I have been drawn to the natural world to reveal things that help make you aware of your own surroundings.”

Lin’s art exhibit has the ability to reach the 60,000 people who walk through Madison Square Park each day.

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More than half of the Atlantic Cedars found in swamps on the East Coast have died, according to the Washington Post. The trees, according to forestry professionals, have dried out due to the rising sea levels.

Forests are dying off because of weather events that bring saltwater, rising temperatures and forest fires, according to Architectural Digest. These East Coast native trees are not only home to frogs, birds and snakes, but the trees help to manage floodwaters and erosion, as well as absorb pollution.

The trees are rot-resistant and were commonly used in colonial times for building. Lin decided to use the trees because she knew they wouldn’t be a safety hazard, according to Artnet News.

In addition to her art exhibit, Lin is planting more than 1,000 shrubs and trees throughout New York in tandem with the Natural Areas Conservancy.

“We are faced with an enormous ecological crisis,” she said to Architectural Digest. “Climate change is at a critical juncture, and I don’t believe I can just focus on what we are losing without also showing you what we can each do to help.”

Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She’s a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.

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