Professor Sarah Sze's Sculpture at LaGuardia Airport

Catherine Fisher
March 25, 2022
A floating sculpture made up of many hanging photos.

A new sculpture by Professor Sarah Sze is on permanent display in the Arrivals and Departures hall at LaGuardia Airport. This work was commissioned alongside work by other notable New York artists for LaGuardia Airport’s renovation. 

Shorter than the Day features a constellation of photographs. These hundreds of images form a fragile, amorphous sphere. Each photograph features the New York City sky at a different time of day. Meditating on time and nature, the piece foregrounds feelings of permanence and transience.

The sculpture takes its title from the famous Emily Dickinson poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” which muses on the nature of eternity and time. The line reads, “Since then—’tis Centuries—and yet / Feels shorter than the Day.” Dickinson was known to have written to a friend saying, "Does not Eternity appear dreadful to you . . . I often get thinking of it and it seems so dark to me that I almost wish there was no Eternity. To think that we must forever live and never cease to be. It seems as if Death which all so dread because it launches us upon an unknown world would be a relief to so endless a state of existence." In Sze’s piece, much like in Dickinson’s poem, the passage of time is not a horror but rather a relief, a moment to find beauty in verse or image. 

Sze is a contemporary artist who builds installations and sculptures from everyday materials, including found objects, plants, photographs, wiring, and food detritus. Sze constructs her work by hand, building intricate and often gravity-defying towers that fill their exhibition space. Sze completed her MA in architecture and painting at Yale University, and later her MFA at the School of Visual Arts. She currently lives and works in New York, where she is a Professor of Visual Arts at Columbia University. Sze is the recipient of numerous honors, including a 2003 MacArthur Fellowship and the opportunity to represent the United States at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Her work is collected in the Guggenheim New York, Museum of Modern Art in New York, The New Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others.