Pittsburgh Art Places


Market Square

Related Links


Market Square, Market Square Public Art Program, trees, bamboo, willow, plum, evergreen, Chinese ink, landscape, LEDs, glass

Artwork Type

Interactive, Other 3D Work, Temporary, Removed

A Winter Landscape Cradling Bits of Sparkle


Jennifer Wen Ma


Commissioning Entity Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
ADA Services The ramp path is accessible to all and winds viewers around the forest.

From February 19 to May 3, 2015, visitors to Market Square found a small forest set against the backdrop of Downtown Pittsburgh. This winter landscape was made up of a variety of trees: weeping willows, evergreens, flowering fruit trees, and bamboos. The trees were painted black with Chinese ink, creating a stark landscape that was seemingly in a state of arrested development. The trees evolved over the course of the exhibition, tracking the change of seasons. Over time, the blooms and blossoms announced the arrival of spring.

A wooden path built among the trees created an opportunity to walk through, explore, and experience the landscape. The bamboo thicket opened to a clearing in its center, surrounding the visitor with their majesty and encouraging one to gaze upward to the sky. A pathway among the fruit trees guided one through a landscape that was quiet and meditative in the winter, readying itself for the burst of new life in the form of riotous blossoms by early spring. Evergreen trees stood tall and erect, strong against the winter’s cold. The path rose in elevation to reach an overlook in the square. Fog beneath the perch enveloped the structure in clouds, mimicking the look of a classical scholar’s studio in the mountains as is often depicted in Chinese landscape painting.   

While walking along the path, a curious visitor could see spherical glass gems with gold-flecked centers interspersed throughout the forest. These small pieces would reflect the sunlight during the day and were illuminated by LED at night. They offered a small discovery that could shift one’s attention to an internal space, encouraging contemplation and promising restoration.

The winter season may seem dormant, but is an essential part of the cycle to engender life. It allows the earth to quiet down and restore itself in preparation for the birth of spring. It is this maternal nature of earth enabling the cycle of life that was the foundation for this work.  A Winter Landscape Cradling Bits of Sparkle allowed visitors to form their own narratives of quietude, reflection, solace, nurturing, and ultimate restoration to life along with the shift of the season. Transforming the existing urban center with this landscape created an unexpected, investigable experience that invited visitors to engage in an outdoor activity during an otherwise long, gray, and cold season. The evolution of the forest —blooming flowers and tender green leaves—drastically changed the look of the work over time, encouraging repeated visits.


Jennifer Wen Ma was born in 1973 in Beijing, China, moved to the United State in 1986, and received her Master of Fine Art in 1999 from Pratt Institute, New York. She works and lives between New York and Beijing. Ma's interdisciplinary practice bridges media as varied as installation, video, drawing, fashion design, performance, and public art, often bringing together unlikely elements in a single work. Her recent work explores Chinese ink as a contemporary medium.

Recent solo exhibitions include Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; Eslite Gallery, Taipei; Art Space NIJI in Kyoto, Japan; and The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. Ma was the Artistic Director for The Republic of China Centennial Grand Countdown, Taipei, 2010. She participated in Lingua Franca for St. Moritz Art Masters, the 2010 Biennale of Sydney, and the 2009 Echigo-Tsumari Triennial, Niigata. Video installations were commissioned by Guggenheim Bilbao, 2009; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2008; and the National Art Museum of China, 2008. Ma's permanent public projects include works for the city of Colle di Val d'Elsa, Italy, 2005; the Digital Beijing Building, 2008; and Nature and Man in Rhapsody of Light at The National Aquatic Center, Beijing, China 2013, among others.

In 2008, Ma was one of the seven members in the core creative team for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Olympics, and the chief designer for visual and special effects. She won an Emmy for the US broadcast of the ceremony.


Local production support for the installation is being provided by Flyspace Productions and the Office of Public Art, with additional support provided by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Building Studio Workshop, and glass artist Lyla Nelson.