Public-art “forest” opens in Market Square tomorrow | Blogh

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Public-art “forest” opens in Market Square tomorrow

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 1:27 PM

Creating a contemplative, even solitary, experience in the heart of Downtown is the goal of A Winter Landscape Cradling Bits of Sparkle, a large-scale new temporary installation by internationally known artist Jennifer Wen Ma.

click to enlarge "A Winter Landscape" under construction yesterday - PHOTO BY BILL O'DRISCOLL
Photo by Bill O'Driscoll
"A Winter Landscape" under construction yesterday
“I wanted a little forest,” said Wen Ma at a press event held yesterday in Perle lounge.

The work consists of a low, undulating wooden boardwalk engulfed in a variety of trees temporarily painted black. Visitors can traverse the walkway and arrive at a small gazebo. Glass sculptures along the walkway will be lit at night. (That’s the “sparkle”).

The foliage includes bamboo, willows, cherry trees and evergreens, all now inked black. As spring approaches, the bamboos will send out green shoots and the willows their leaves; eventually the blossoms on the fruit trees will emerge, with colors of peach, pink and white.

Speaking in the midst of a cold snap, Wen Ma said that the work is about getting people to embrace the season. “We have to go through winter in order to have spring,” she said.

Perle overlooks Market Square, where workers yesterday were busy completing Winter Landscape amidst a few tons of mulch that were steaming in the cold.

Wen Ma said that the trees are painted black with Chinese ink, a charcoal-based substance that doesn’t harm them but suggests the visual effect of a traditional Chinese landscape painting. (After the exhibition ends, in April, the Office of Public art will work with Construction Junction to relocate the trees, said OPA's Renee Piechocki.)

Winter Landscape is the second installment of the Market Square Public Art Program. The initiative uses temporary works by notable talents to enliven the Square in winter. Last year’s inaugural installation was Congregation, an interactive light-and-sound installation by U.K. based new-media artists KMA.

The program, a project of the City of Pittsburgh’s Public Art Division, is managed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, assisted by the Office of Public Art . Funders include The Heinz Endowments; the National Endowment for the Arts’ ArtWorks program; an anonymous source; the Richard King Mellon Foundation; and the PDP.

Wen Ma, a Chinese-born artist now based in New York City and Beijing, is credited with a long list of projects worldwide dating back at least a decade, from China and the Biennale of Sydney to Spain’s Guggenheim Bilbao. She has permanent public installations in cities including Beijing and Colle di Val d’Elsa, in Italy.

In 2008, according to press materials, Wen Ma “was one of the seven memebers on the core creative team for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, and the chief designer for visual and special effects.” The U.S. broadcast of the ceremony won her an Emmy.

Speakers at yesterday’s presser included Ray Gatsil, director of the city’s Planning Department. “Bringing in works of this caliber adds to the local ecosystem of art in this town,” he said. Wen Ma noted that the glassworks in Winter Landscape were crafted at the Pittsburgh Glass Center.

The work formally opens at 2 p.m. tomorrow with a ribbon-cutting by Mayor Bill Peduto. An artist talk and opening reception run from 6:30-8 p.m. in the auditorium at 11 Stanwix St., followed by a walk to Market Square to experience the exhibit at night. The reception is free, but you must RSVP at 412-391-2060, x237, or at

Winter Landscape will remain up through April 12. Representatives of the Office of Public Art will be in Market Square every Monday at noon, and Thursdays at noon and 5 p.m., to provide on-site interpretation.

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