By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Madison Square Park Conservancy will be debuting sparkling transparent glass globes filled with discarded bits of technology in its next public art installation, opening in the park today. The sculptures come from artist Paula Hayes in her first outdoor exhibition, which will be on view in the southwest gravel area through April 19.
“Gazing Globes” features 18 transparent spheres filled with various media debris, including old radio parts, discarded computer parts, glass vacuum tubes, micro glass beads and shredded rubber tires, all covered in shimmering dust from pulverized CDs.
The Conservancy said that the spheres, which are 16, 18 and 24 inches in diameter, will be on fiberglass pedestals ranging from 24 to 47 inches off the ground and the globes will be lit from within.
Hayes, an American visual artist based in New York who has also worked as a landscape designer, usually works with plants and has previously created terrariums. The installation in Madison Square Park looks like a collection of traditional terrariums on first glance but Hayes made a crucial switch with the project.
“The sculptures are being installed during the winter and they’re in a park surrounded by a city, so I thought of the park itself as the terrarium,” she said.
“It’s like I turned it inside out and I thought of these bubbles as the world outside the plants so it was kind of an inverse approach.”
She added that she was also mindful of the wintry conditions, so the lighting from the shining up from bottom of the globes is an attempt to brighten up the park during the dreary weather.
“The illumination was important,” she said. “This is very much a nighttime experience. In the darkness of winter, it becomes very enchanted. So instead of only the sun, the light is shining up from below.”
Hayes was pleased that she was able to work in Madison Square Park for her first foray into public art.
“It’s one of the premiere and beautiful parks in the city and it has a very Victorian feeling. It’s laid out extremely beautifully,” she said. “I really appreciate the amount of liveliness it has and the programming they do. It’s one of the great hearts of the city. It’s a great, lively place to engage with the public.”
Madison Square Park Conservancy Senior Curator Brooke Kamin Rapaport said that the exhibition is a “breakthrough” in Hayes’ career.
“Mad. Sq. Art is confirming this period of stylistic polyphony in contemporary outdoor sculpture and Hayes uses the residue of technology for the contents of her gazing globes,” Rapaport said.
Hayes herself said that the project caused a shift for her work because she has been working on it for the past three years, and the subject matter of the Madison Square Park installation inspired other sculptures that she made in the meantime.
“It’s influenced what would be the transition from purely botanical to something that is a landscape composed of nonliving parts,” she said.
Although the exhibition hadn’t officially opened by the beginning of this week, Hayes said that the installation was complete by this past Monday and that park goers have already started interacting with the globes. She said that she designed them to be different heights so that both children and adults would be able to peer into them easily, and all the various perspectives allows everyone to have a different experience with the piece. She added that some of the experience is less about what’s in the globes themselves and more about the reflections they give off.
“The bare trees and branches and all of the tall, beautiful architecture in the park is in there too but it’s reflected in a way that it looks like it’s inside the globes,” she said. “It’s always changing because of the light and at night it has a different thing; it’s a kind of sci-fi other-world atmosphere and the lights reflect the city inside of them.”