For the Birds

Paula Hayes Shows Her Affinity for the Outdoors at the Aspen Art Museum

Known for her living artwork, the visual artist has created a tiny Alpine meadow downtown.

By Allison Pattillo June 6, 2018

Summer is in full swing at the Aspen Art Museum, and galleries are brimming with provocative exhibits, including Paula Hayes's Bird Nesting House and Tree, on view through October 14 in the outdoor Crown Commons.

Hayes grew up spending as much time outside as possible and says some of her happiest times have been in Aspen. With her latest local work (she has other installations in private collections here), she builds on that inspiration to connect passersby to the natural environment around them. 

"You feel a lot of incredible energy nestled in the valley," says Hayes, who resides in both New York City and the Hudson Valley. "It's grounding to come here and connect to the vastness." She admits that being in Aspen makes her feel small—"like a little grain of something"—making the scale of this piece fitting in relation to town's buildings and surrounding mountains. "I can't stop looking vertically here," she notes. "I feel my tinyness."

When the museum asked Hayes to bring this installation to Aspen, she suggested it be shown in a sliver of an alpine meadow, given that creating eco-systems is her forte. Using a variety of native flora and planters of her own design, she created a small meadow within a larger, oval-shaped planter. In addition to helping people connect to nature, Hayes hopes that the installation will attract pollinators and even become a roosting house for local birds. "The metal form holding the birdhouse is in the shape of my hand," she explains. Made of UV-stable plastic, the house itself "is like a little Airbnb for birds," she adds.

Hayes worked with Aspen-based landscape architecture firm Bluegreen during the design process of the meadow and to establish a sustainable maintenance program for it. Planters within the installation provide adequate soil depth for larger elements like the weeping pine. Hayes even consulted with an ornithologist when originally designing the birdhouse to make sure it would meet nesting needs. 

Part of the fun, says Hayes, is seeing how the exhibit will morph over the summer. "I want people to be aware of nature, even when they're walking in town." 



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