Press Releases

deCordova Welcomes Hugh Hayden’s ‘Huff and a Puff’ to Its Sculpture Park

Lincoln, Mass.  |  December 4, 2023

A slanted cabin with shingles and a brick chimney in the style of Thoreau's cabin at Walden

LINCOLN, Mass. – deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is proud to announce that a new permanent commission by artist Hugh Hayden has been installed on the Front Lawn. Huff and a Puff is a slanted replica of the one-room home where Henry David Thoreau lived in relative isolation at nearby Walden Pond and wrote Walden – Or A Life in the Woods from 1845 to 1847.

Huff and a Puff reimagines Thoreau’s wood and brick cabin, which has become an iconic symbol of American self-reliance, activism, and ecological consciousness. Hayden designed the entire structure– every shingle, windowpane and brick – to slant forward and sideways by 20 degrees, conveying a surreal, pressurized force upon this one-room home. The individually cut shingles of the cabin are of cedar, which Thoreau used for his original cabin. The slanted bricks were custom created using locally sourced clay. The windows are mirrored, such that visitors can see themselves as well as the ground and sky, further altering the perception of this small house and emphasizing the viewer as part of the work.

Hayden states, “Huff and A Puff is about perspective, not only in terms of its physical experience, but also conceptually, given that for some people, the world is not so easy to live in.”

Hayden’s sculptures address myths and markers of the American dream and often reveal how ideals, like home ownership or higher education, are difficult for all people to access. He meticulously recreates and adapts furniture and everyday objects, such as school desks or kitchen tables, by slanting, distorting, or barbing their surfaces.

Chief Curator Sarah Montross shares, “We are thrilled to bring Hugh Hayden’s Huff and a Puff to deCordova, the artist’s first permanent outdoor commission. Given our proximity to Walden Pond, Huff and a Puff offers us a way to look at this important historical site anew and draw connections to present day issues, like the effects of climate change. Through its dramatic tilt, Huff and a Puff pushes against fixed meanings of the foundational landmark of Thoreau’s cabin in American cultural history. Moreover, the installation confounds your perception and is a truly unique artistic feat of engineering, sculpted form, and material fabrication.”

Born in Texas and now living and working in New York City, Hugh Hayden’s practice considers the anthropomorphization of the natural world as a visceral lens for exploring the human condition. Hayden transforms familiar objects through a process of selection, carving and juxtaposition to challenge our perceptions of ourselves, others and the environment. Trained as an architect, Hayden’s work arises from a deep connection to nature and its organic materials.

Hayden utilizes wood as his primary medium, frequently loaded with multi-layered histories in their origin, including objects as varied as discarded trunks, rare indigenous timbers, Christmas trees or souvenir African sculptures. From these he saws, sculpts, and sands the wood, often combining disparate species, creating new composite forms that also reflect their complex cultural backgrounds. Crafting metaphors for human existence and past experience, Hayden’s work questions the stasis of social dynamics and asks the viewer to examine their place within an ever-shifting ecosystem.

Huff and a Puff was commissioned by Art & the Landscape, an initiative of The Trustees. Lead support for Art at The Trustees is provided by Richard M. Coffman and Gabrielle C.F. Coffman. The project is also supported by Lisson Gallery, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Next Generation Fund of the Roy A. Hunt Foundation, Marjorie and Nick Greville, Janet and David Offensend, Kathleen O’Hara, Valentine Talland and Nagesh Mahanthappa, Maria Garzon Vassallo and Mark Vassallo, Dr. Susan M. Culman, Elissa and William Warner, and an anonymous donor.

There will be a special program related to Huff and a Puff:

·       Huff and a Puff: Thoreau’s Legacy with Jeffrey S. Cramer and Sarah Montross On Thursday, March 14, at 6 p.m. explore the legacy of Thoreau and his iconic cabin with Jeffrey Cramer, curator of collections at the Walden Woods Project, and Sarah Montross, deCordova’s chief curator. They will discuss the new installation at deCordova, Huff and a Puff by Hugh Hayden.

DeCordova has also published with MIT Press the artist’s first monograph, Hugh Hayden: American Vernacular (2023), available for purchase on the Trustees website and other online vendors. The item can be found at Hugh Hayden: American Vernacular – The Trustees (



About deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Established in 1950 and located just twenty miles west of Boston, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is dedicated to fostering the creation and exploration of contemporary sculpture and art through a dynamic slate of rotation exhibitions, innovative learning opportunities, a constantly changing thirty-acre landscape of large-scale, outdoor, modern, and contemporary sculpture, and site-specific installations. deCordova joined The Trustees in July of 2019. To learn more, visit


More about The Trustees

Founded by landscape architect Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees has, for more than 125 years, been a catalyst for important ideas, endeavors, and progress in Massachusetts. As a steward of distinctive and dynamic places of both historic and cultural value, The Trustees is the nation’s first preservation and conservation organization, and its landscapes and landmarks continue to inspire discussion, innovation, and action today as they did in the past. We are a nonprofit, supported by members, friends and donors and our 118 sites are destinations for residents, members, and visitors alike, welcoming millions of guests annually.