Photo Essays

Crystal Balls of Cast-off Technology Illuminate a Park in Manhattan

'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Experiencing Paula Hayes’s Gazing Globes in Madison Square Park is recommended for after sunset, when the spheres are illuminated in the night like crystal balls of divination. Instead of the future, what’s revealed inside the 18 translucent sculptures of polycarbonate are pieces of discarded technology.

'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
Interior of one of the ‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park

Shreds of tires, bits of radios, vacuum tubes, and other vaguely recognizable objects are all coated with the shimmering dust of smashed CDs inside the globes. The New York–based artist is better known for her miniature garden terrariums, such as those recently on view in the NYC Makers exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design. Here Hayes has adorned the sprawl of Madison Square Park with her own take on the kitschy gazing globe lawn ornament, with nothing organic in the composite of modern trash.

Gazing Globes, part of the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s arts initiative, opened last month in the glamorously named “West Gravel” area of the park, with the Flatiron Building on one side and the Empire State Building towering off in the distance. The little orbs hold their own among all the lights, standing on fiberglass pedestals between 24 to 47 inches high, ranging in size between 16 to 24 inches in diameter. In the frigid New York weather they appear like tiny frozen landscapes, with crystals and minerals mingling with the cast-offs at odd angles. The electronics material consists of things that couldn’t be recycled, and in this way there’s a dialogue with Ian Trask’s blister pack temple currently on view at the Invisible Dog in Brooklyn. Both are turning trash into totems of our culture, and asking viewers to consider gazing into a future where these materials are the contemporary artifacts which will likely long endure on the planet.

'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
'Gazing Globes' by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park
‘Gazing Globes’ by Paula Hayes in Madison Square Park

Paula Hayes: Gazing Globes continues in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park through April 19. 

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