Courtesy of Meg Webster and Socrates Sculpture Park

A living art installation aims to carve out a habitat for at-risk pollinators.

For now, the plants are stubby. Nearly 1,000 of them—bee balm, asters, coneflower, thistle—are nestled into packed-dirt walls arcing up 6 feet into the air. But as the summer wears on, they’ll grow. “I’m not producing a flower show, where they bring in all adult things and it’s finalized,” says the land artist Meg Webster. Change, she adds, “is part of the nature of the work.”

She means that both literally and figuratively. The installation will evolve over the course of its life, but it’s also a call to respond to an urgent ecological crisis: pollinator decline. Webster hopes that her work will attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators—crucial insects whose numbers are dwindling at alarming rates.

Until the mid-1980s, the plot of land near Vernon Boulevard and 31st Avenue in Queens was a landfill and dumping ground. In 1986, a team of local artists and activists transformed the spot into a space for large outdoor installations; now, 30 years later, Socrates Sculpture Park is celebrating its anniversary with a new site-specific exhibition, LANDMARK. The show explores ecological change, both positive and troubling. Webster’s work is on view, along with projects by nine other artists.

Until August 28, visitors can walk inside Webster’s Concave Room for Bees, comprised of 850,000 pounds of earth, topsoil, and loam. When the exhibition wraps, the structure will be dismantled and the plants will be dispersed around the park.

A view of the outside of Webster’s installation. (Courtesy of the artist and Socrates Sculpture Park)

Designing structures with bees in mind isn’t without precedent. My colleague Laura Bliss has written about a campaign in Oslo to plant way stations for bees to feed and rest throughout the city. And in urban areas, the relationship between architecture and bees can be a symbiotic one: a 2013 Smithsonian piece described how bees can help sustain green roofs on skyscrapers.

Webster, who is 72, has used the natural world as a canvas since the early ‘80s. Some of her work, such as a queen-sized bed made from moss, signals that there’s an overlap between the natural world and the man-made one. In this new immersive project, Webster seems to be emphasizing that this relationship should feel immediate and demanding. Looking forward, she says that she hopes to pursue more projects that explore how green spaces can mitigate myriad problems in urban areas—for creatures both large and small.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    What Happened When Tulsa Paid People to Work Remotely

    The first class of hand-picked remote workers moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in exchange for $10,000 and a built-in community. The city might just be luring them to stay.

  2. photo: a man with a smartphone in front of a rental apartment building in Boston.
    Equity

    Landlords Are Using Next-Generation Eviction Tech

    As tenant protections get stronger, corporate landlords use software to manage delinquent renters. But housing advocates see a tool for quicker evictions.

  3. animated illustration: cars, bikes, scooters and drones in motion.
    Transportation

    This City Was Sick of Tech Disruptors. So It Decided to Become One.

    To rein in traffic-snarling new mobility modes, L.A. needed digital savvy. Then came a privacy uproar, a murky cast of consultants, and a legal crusade by Uber.

  4. Maps

    For Those Living in Public Housing, It’s a Long Way to Work

    A new Urban Institute study measures the spatial mismatch between where job seekers live and employment opportunities.

  5. Photo: A protected bike lane along San Francisco's Market Street, which went car-free in January.
    Transportation

    Why Would a Bike Shop Fight a Bike Lane?

    A store owner is objecting to San Francisco’s plan to install a protected bike lane, because of parking worries. Should it matter that it’s a bike shop?

×