Ghost Parking Lot

New Hamden Plaza, Connecticut, USA


The Disappointed Tourist: Ghost Parking Lot, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

Ghost Parking Lot was a public artwork commissioned by the Hamden Plaza shopping center in 1978 from SITE (an architecture and environmental arts studio founded by James Wines in 1970). The artwork consisted of 20 cars covered in asphalt. According to the plaque at the project, the artwork was intended to take ““two typical ingredients of a suburban shopping center, automobiles and asphalt, and transforms them into another frame of reference.” The piece deteriorated over the years and was demolished in 2003. The painting is based on a photograph by James Wines that he kindly sent to me.

I grew up in Hamden, right next to New Haven, and this was always the coolest thing we had going. On the main road through town, located right at the bottom of the big shopping center parking lot, the Ghost Parking Lot was striking. I loved the darkness of the asphalt and I understood as a child the statement about our reliance on cars and how they showed status. People doubted there were real cars underneath – but that’s what made it so fantastic. Well, not everyone loved it and there was not enough funding to restore in the 2000s so it got demolished. Kristen P.