For nearly a quarter of a century, Eclipsed Time, a temporal sculpture by artist Maya Lin, hung above the crowds of commuters bustling through the Long Island Railroad concourse at Penn Station. Now, amid the flurry of construction at the station, the sculpture, which has long been defunct and neglected, has been removed to make way for a new entrance that will allow much needed natural light into the transit hub.
Photo in 2013 when the sculpture was not functioning
Lin is most known in the United States for her work on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, and few commuters were even aware of the overhead sculpture in Penn Station. For years it has been stagnant and dark, though it was cleaned and briefly lit in 2015. The sculpture was disassembled this week and is being stored off-site. There is no official word on where it will find a permanent home. The piece was located in the corridor outside of the 1,2,3 subway entrance, near the exit to 34th street. You can still see, on the floor of the station, the outline of where the sculpture once hung above. In a statement to Untapped New York, MTA Director of Arts & Design Sandra Bloodworth says “Maya is currently collaborating with our team to reimagine her work in a new context. This important artist has become part of the history of Penn Station and we are excited that she will also be part of its future.”
The sculpture was originally installed in 1994 during a process that took almost two months. The complicated work of art is made up of three layers, a dark ceiling panel with starry, fiber-optic pinpoints of light, a lower frosted disk that stretches 14-feet wide, and a flat aluminum disk between the two which moves back and forth. The effect created is that of an indoor sundial which casts shadows in a 24 hour cycle. The pieces of the sculpture were manufactured in Long Island City. Over the years, the sculpture has alternately been functioning and not functioning.
Bloodworth also says that Eclipsed Time “is an exceptional work of art that had specialized technical and mechanical maintenance needs related to the fiber optic lighting and mechanical pulley system. These unforeseen challenges have been influential in the medium and design choices made for artwork installed in the years following. MTA Arts & Design has increasingly focused on fabricating artworks in materials that are durable and require minimal maintenance.”
Photo in 2015 when the sculpture was functioning again
Maya Lin’s piece is one of the many parts of Penn Station, like the beloved oyster bar Tracks, which have been lost to new renovations. However, the construction has also revealed parts of the original 1910 station which have been covered up for decades. If you want to see what is left from the original McKim, Mead and White structure, and the get a last look at how the station is now, join us on an upcoming Remnants of Penn Station walking tour led by our Chief Experience Officer Justin Rivers.