I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Faith Lapidus with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about
the work of the American artist and building designer Maya Lin. She is best
known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. which was
completed in nineteen eighty-two. Throughout her career, Lin's monuments,
buildings, and sculptures have been influenced by the natural world.
art also expresses her interest in environmental activism. This spring, the
Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. opened an exhibit called "Systematic
Landscapes." This interesting show features some of Maya Lin's recent works.
The first large sculpture that greets visitors to the
exhibit "Systematic Landscapes" is very surprising. A huge form that looks like
a hill or wave takes up an entire room of the museum. The work is called "2 x 4
Landscape." It is made of more than
fifty thousand pieces of cut blocks of wood. The highest point of the softly
curved hill measures about three meters tall, while the lowest point is only a
few centimeters thick. Visitors can explore the work from three sides. The
sculpture looks like it would be fun to walk on.
first it might seem very unusual to see a natural form like a hill inside a
museum. But this surprise is part of Maya Lin's aim. Her work explores how people experience
landscape in a time of increased technological influence and environmental
Line" is another sculpture that takes up an entire room. It is a line drawing
made out of aluminum wire that looks like a wavy net floating in mid-air. The
lines represent a mountainous underwater area in the Atlantic Ocean.
Maya Lin worked with ocean scientists to develop a
three dimensional image of this part of the ocean. Then, she recreated that
image in a smaller sculptural form. The very top of the wire drawing represents
the only part of the ocean landscape that can be seen on the surface of the
water: It is Bouvet Island, one of the most isolated islands in the world.
not all of Lin's sculptures are huge. In one room, visitors can see a series of
works called "Atlas Landscapes". For this series, Maya Lin turned a series of
map books into sculptures. She carefully cut into each page of the book to
create small canyons and formations.
series called "Bodies of Water" is like an artistic geography lesson. These
works are also about unseen underwater landscapes. Maya Lin cut out the shapes
of three bodies of water using thin layers of wood.
work is done in the shape of the Caspian Sea, another in the shape of the Black
Sea, and the third takes the form of the Red Sea. The many layers of wood in
each sculpture become thinner towards its base, or the area that relates to the
deepest part of the sea.
series called "Fractured Landscapes" looks like drawings of rivers and streams.
But these drawings were made by pressing paper against broken sheets of glass
covered in ink.
Lin has also made a sculpture for the United States Embassy in Beijing, China.
Her "Pin River-Yangtze" is made of about thirty thousand small metal pins stuck
into the wall. The many pins take the shape of one of the longest rivers in the
Maya Lin was born in Athens, Ohio in nineteen
fifty-nine. Her parents had each fled China in the late nineteen forties. They
met and married while living in the United States. Later, both parents taught
at Ohio University. Her mother, Julia, was a literature professor. Her father,
Henry, was a ceramist, an artist who makes objects out of clay. As a child,
Maya would play with clay in her father's studio. She was also influenced by
the wooded hills near her home as well as by local Native American burial
Lin studied building design at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. At
the age of twenty-one, she won a national contest to design the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Her design was very
different from other war memorials. It was very modern, simple, and expressive.
Her design is made up of two long black granite pieces that meet at an angle.
The wall is set below ground level. Cut into the wall are the names of the more
than fifty-eight thousand Americans dead or missing in the Vietnam War. Maya
Lin purposely called for the granite to be shiny. Visitors experience a link with the monument
by seeing their reflection in the stone.
Lin has said that death is a private and personal matter. She says this
monument is a quiet place for people to come to terms with loss caused by the
war. Many people had criticized early plans for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
They thought it was not heroic. But once it was built, family members of the
dead, Vietnam veterans, and the general public accepted its beauty and strong
emotion. The memorial has become one of the most visited places in Washington.
Lin has designed many other memorials. These structures combine elements of
nature such as earth and water with written language to express meaning. Her
Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama was completed in nineteen
eighty-nine. The black granite sculpture has a circular surface like a table. A
thin layer of water runs over this surface. It is cut with a list of important
events marking the civil rights movement of the nineteen sixties.
made another "water table" sculpture out of green granite for an outdoor area
at Yale University. The surface is cut with numbers representing how many women
attended Yale through history. Completed in nineteen ninety-three, the
sculpture honors the many women who have studied there.
Maya Lin has said that her work exists on the
boundaries -- somewhere between science and art, art and architecture, public
and private, east and west. She says that she is always trying to find a
balance between these opposing forces to find a place where opposites meet.
Lin has also designed many buildings. In nineteen ninety-nine, the Children's
Defense Fund hired her to build a library on a farm it owns in the state of
Tennessee. By modernizing an old farm building, she skillfully combined old and
new building traditions. She also created an environmentally friendly design.
This organization later hired Miz Lin to design its religious center. The
building looks like an artist's version of a wooden boat.
Maya Lin also designed a private home known as "The Box
House" in Telluride, Colorado. Her aim was to make as simplified a form as
possible -- a wooden box. This very modern building was made to give its owners
a beautiful view of the nearby forest and mountains.
Maya Lin's "Ecliptic" outdoor area in Grand Rapids,
Michigan features water in its three states: liquid, gas and solid. The park
has two fountains, one with flowing water and another that releases a fine
mist. An ice skating rink has lights built into the floor. The small lights
make up the exact pattern of stars in the sky on the day the park opened in two
design for the new Museum of Chinese in America building in New York City is to
open this summer. She has said that the
design for the building is modern. But
the inside space of the museum will have links to traditional Chinese
architecture. She says that this is the first building she has worked on that
is related to the subject of China. Lin
says this project means a great deal to her. And she says it is important to
her that her two daughters know about that part of their background.
One of Maya Lin's most recent memorials, "What is
Missing?", is to be completed later this year. The project rejects the idea of
memorials as a single unmoving object. This memorial will exist in several
different places and forms at the same time. The aim of "What is Missing?" is
to bring attention to the number of animals and places that have either
disappeared or will disappear in our lifetime. The memorial is to exist as a
video project, a Web site and as a book.
Maya Lin has said that she does not believe that
anything she creates can compare to the beauty of the natural world. But she
says her works are her answer to that beauty. Visitors who see her work can
enjoy experiencing both the beauty of art and the natural environment.
program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Faith Lapidus. To see pictures of Maya Lin's work, visit our Web site,
voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special