Maya Lin has an extraordinary ability to convey complex and poetic ideas using simple forms and natural materials.
Maya Lin works with a vocabulary of form culled from her study of landscape. By altering scale and materials, she creates works that connect the ideal and the real.
The three installations all engage with the problem of bringing land masses into architecture by translating landscapes, two real and one imagined, into the materials of architecture while inviting viewers to move under, on, or through the works.
Each work is composed of a single material. Each, configured to evoke a different aspect of landscape, went through the same process of design: creation of a three-dimensional model in Lin’s studio, translation via scanning or plotting into digital drawings, and finally, full scale construction in Seattle.
2×4 Landscape is composed of more than fifty thousand vertical two-by-four boards placed in a configuration minutely detailed in models and drawings. Covering approximately twenty-four hundred square feet, it rises from a plane of short two-by-four segments to a hill ten feet tall. From some views the sculpture reads as a land from, and from others as a rising wave.
Water Line is a line drawing in space of a particular underwater location on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The site rises a few miles from the sea floor and is visible on the surface as Bouvet Island, one of the most remote islands in the world. Working with scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Lin and members of her studio, developed a topographic rendering of the seascape. The rendering was translated into architectural scale and fabricated from quarter-inch diameter aluminum tubes.
Blue Lake Pass, takes its name from a landmark within a selected zone. The cubes forming the sculpture are made from vertical sheets of particle board with the top edges cut to match a topographic line. Pulled apart into a grid, the topographic image is disjointed and the spaces between the cubes become narrow paths, or cuts, through the geography of the sculpture, exposing strata much like a highway carved through a mountain pass.
The unseen landscape is further explored in the Bodies of Water series, Lin’s portraits of specific inland island seas, whose expanses of salt water are partially or wholly landlocked.
Here Lin takes up the representation of these immense volumes of water and shapes them from plywood layers. The resulting sculpture is balanced on its deepest point. The three bodies of water represented in the exhibition, the Caspian, Black, and Red Seas, are the most endangered in the world.
Maya Lin is currently working on what is her final memorial, What is Missing? which focuses on bringing awareness to the current crisis surrounding biodiversity and habitat loss.
Maya Lin has maintained a careful balance between art and architecture throughout her career, creating a remarkable body of work that includes large-scale site-specific installations, intimate studio artworks, architectural works and memorials.
Landscape is the context and the source of inspiration for Ms. Lin’s art. She peers curiously at the landscape through a twenty-first century lens, merging rational and technological order with notions of beauty and the transcendental. Utilizing technological methods to study and visualize the natural world, Ms. Lin takes micro and macro views of the earth, sonar resonance scans, aerial and satellite mapping devices and translates that information into sculptures, drawings and environmental installations. Her works address how we relate and respond to the environment, and presents new ways of looking at the world around us.
From recent environmental works such as Storm King Wavefield, Where the Land Meets the Sea and Eleven Minute Line to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where she cut open the land and polished its edges to create a history embedded in the earth, Ms. Lin has consistently explored how we experience the landscape. She has made works that merge completely with the terrain, blurring the boundaries between two- and three-dimensional space and set up a systematic ordering of the land tied to history, language, and time.
Her studio artwork has been shown in solo and group museum exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad. Ms. Lin’s current exhibition Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes originated at Henry Art Gallery in Seattle and is the first to translate the scale and immersive capacity of her outdoor installations to the interior space of a museum. Maya Lin: Three Ways of Looking at the Earth, Selections from Systematic Landscapes was shown most recently at The Pace Gallery (formerly PaceWildenstein) in September 2009.
Ms. Lin is represented by The Pace Gallery in New York City.
Her architectural works have included institutional and private commissions, from a chapel and library for the Children’s Defense Fund to the Sculpture Center’s space in Long Island City to Aveda’s headquarters in downtown Manhattan to private residences throughout the Country. Ms. Lin completed the design for the Museum of Chinese in America’s new space in Manhattan’s Chinatown, which opened in the spring of 2009.
Maya Lin has been drawn to the critical social and historical issues of our time and addressed them in her memorials, including the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC, the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL, the Women’s Table at Yale University. Currently she is working on the Confluence Project, a multi-sited installation spanning the Columbia River system in the Pacific Northwest that intertwines the history of Lewis and Clark with the history of the Native American tribes who inhabit those regions. With a critical eye toward the environmental changes that have rapidly occurred, Ms. Lin’s Confluence Project has brought significant ecological restoration to six state and national parks along the Columbia River Basin. It is an ongoing project with three of the six sites completed. For more information visit www.confluenceproject.com.
Ms. Lin is currently working on what will be her last memorial, entitled What is Missing? which will focus on bringing awareness to the current crisis surrounding biodiversity and habitat loss. Once again reinventing what a monument can be, What is Missing? will be a multi-sited work existing in select scientific institutions, online as a website, and as a book. It debuted at the California Academy of Sciences in September 2009 with a sound and media sculpture installation located at the Academy’s East Terrace.
A committed environmentalist, Lin has consistently focused on environmental concerns, promoting sustainable building design in her architectural works, while making the environment the subject of her artworks. She is deeply committed to focusing attention back to the environment and to ask us to pay closer attention to the natural world.
Maya Lin received her Master of Architecture from Yale University in 1986, and has maintained a professional studio in New York City since then. She serves on the boards of the Bloomberg Foundation, Museum of Chinese in America and What is Missing? Foundation. She is an honorary board member of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a former member of the Yale Corporation and the Energy Foundation. She is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the Presidential Design Award, the Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture, a National Endowment for the Arts artist’ award, the William A. Bernoudy Resident in Architecture fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, the Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an AIA Honor Award, the Finn Juhl Prize, and honorary doctorates from Yale, Harvard, Williams, and Smith College among others.
She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2005 was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She has been profiled in magazines such as Time Magazine, The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker. In 1996 a documentary about her work, Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Her book Boundaries, about her work and creative processes, is in its fifth printing with Simon & Schuster. Her architecture and artworks have consistently elicited praise and received awards from magazines and periodicals ranging from Time and Newsweek to Art in America and Architectural Record and The New York Times.