Hot Art on a Crazy Cold Day

They don't call it "Chinese New Year" in China, don'tchaknow.

They call it "Spring Festival" because this day (which is based on the lunar calendar, if you can believe the Internet) marks a movement from winter towards spring.

And on this February day – whatever you want to call it – artist Jennifer Wen Ma introduces her installation art in Market Square to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and the muffled sound of gloves applauding as the temperature reads 7 degrees. That's Fahrenheit!

The cool thing (pun somewhat intended) about the art – officially titled A Winter Landscape Cradling Bits of Sparkle – is that it will evolve. Evolutionary art, if you will. Now, in the harshness of winter, the forest of trees are black... kinda like February, in general.

But wait! Over time, between now and April 12 anyway, it'll change. Flowers will bloom on the fruit trees. The bamboo will do what bamboo does, which, I'm not positive but involves shooting in a good way, I think. Willows will weep. We're encouraged to come back for repeat visits to see the changes.

The artist points out on a brief tour of the installation that, even after just three days of planting, there are actually new buds on some of the trees. There is hope, I can't help but exclaim. The guy behind me on the elevated walkway points to one of the trees and has a different take. "If this were in my backyard, the deer would have eaten it up till about here," he says, pointing to chest level. I would've laughed if it weren't so crazy cold.

Instead, I'm intrigued by the glass sculptures – the bits of sparkle, I take it – that are embedded throughout this tight, urban forest. I read that they're made by Pittsburgh-based glass artist Lyla Nelson and am duly impressed, especially since I had tried my hand at glass-making once where I made the world's ugliest knick knack.

Walking in the Forest

But tonight, in honor of Chinese New Year or Spring Festival and my son returning tomorrow to California, we'll dine at Soba. We'll welcome the year of the wood goat. That's what Soba's email advertisement called it... the Internet says it may also be the year of the sheep. Apparently, 2015 is up for a zodiac debate.

One thing is for sure though. A Winter Landscape Cradling Bits of Sparkle will brighten your day. No matter the weather.