Maya Lin

Maya Lin

Lin at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington (2007)
Born (1959-10-05) October 5, 1959
Athens, Ohio, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Yale University
Known for art, architecture, memorials
Notable work Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982)
Civil Rights Memorial (1989)
Spouse(s) Daniel Wolf

National Medal of Arts

Presidential Medal of Freedom
Maya Lin
Traditional Chinese 林瓔
Simplified Chinese 林璎

Maya Ying Lin (born October 5, 1959) is an American designer and artist who is known for her work in sculpture and land art. She first came to fame at the age of 21 as the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.[1]

Personal life

Maya Lin was born in Athens, Ohio. Her parents migrated to the United States from China, her father in 1948 and her mother in 1949, and settled in Ohio before Maya was born.[2][3] Her father, Henry Huan Lin, born in Fuzhou, Fujian, was a ceramist and former dean of the Ohio University College of Fine Arts. Her mother, Julia Chang Lin, born in Shanghai, is a poet and taught literature at Ohio University.[1] She is the niece of Lin Huiyin, who is said to be the first female architect in China.[4] Lin Juemin and Lin Yin Ming, both of whom are among the 72 martyrs of the Second Guangzhou Uprising was a cousin of her grandfather.[5] Lin Chang-min, a Hanlin of Qing dynasty, the emperor's teacher, was the father of Lin Hui-yin and great-grandfather of Maya Lin.[6]

Lin studied at Yale University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1981 and a Master of Architecture degree in 1986. She has also been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Yale University, Harvard University, Williams College, and Smith College.[7] She was among the youngest at Yale University to receive an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts in 1987.[8]

Lin is married to Daniel Wolf, a New York photography dealer. They have two daughters, India and Rachel.[1]

Lin is the youngest of her generation, and has an older brother, the poet Tan Lin. Growing up, she did not have many friends and stayed home a lot. She loved school and loved to study. When she was not studying, she took independent courses from Ohio University and spent her free time casting bronzes in the school foundry.[9] Lin, having grown up as an Asian minority, has said that she "didn't even realize" she was Chinese until later in life, and that it was not until her 30s that she had a desire to understand her cultural background.[10] Commenting on her design of a new home for the Museum of Chinese in America near New York City's Chinatown, Lin attached a personal significance to the project being a Chinese-related project because she wanted her two daughters to "know that part of their heritage".[2]

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial original design submission by Maya Lin

In 1981, at age 21 and while still an undergraduate, Lin won a public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, beating 1,441 other competition submissions.[11] The black cut-stone masonry wall, with the names of 57,661 fallen soldiers carved into its face,[12] was completed in late October 1982 and dedicated on November 13, 1982.[13] The wall is granite and V-shaped, with one side pointing to the Lincoln Memorial and the other to the Washington Monument.[12]

Lin's conception was to create an opening or a wound in the earth to symbolize the gravity of the loss of the soldiers. The design was initially controversial for what was an unconventional and non-traditional design for a war memorial.[14] Opponents of the design also voiced objection because of Lin's Asian ethnicity,[10][15][16] her being female, and her lack of professional experience. The memorial has since become an important pilgrimage site for relatives and friends of the American military casualties in Vietnam, and personal tokens and mementos are left at the wall daily in their memory.[17][18] In 2007, the American Institute of Architects ranked the memorial #10 on their list of America's Favorite Architecture.

Lin believes that if the competition had not been "blind", with designs submitted by number instead of name, she "never would have won". She received harassment after her ethnicity was revealed. Prominent businessman and later third party presidential candidate Ross Perot called her an "egg roll" after it was revealed that she was Asian.[19] Lin defended her design in front of the United States Congress, and eventually a compromise was reached. A bronze statue of a group of soldiers and an American flag was placed off to one side of her design.

Later work

Sculpture made of multiple wood 2x4 pieces, on display at the De Young Museum in San Francisco (2009)

Lin, who now owns and operates Maya Lin Studio in New York City, went on to design other structures, including the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama (1989) and the Wave Field at the University of Michigan (1995).[20]

In 1994, she was the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. The title comes from an address she gave at Juniata College in which she spoke of the monument design process. Talking about the origin of her work, Lin says "My work originates from a simple desire to make people aware of their surroundings and this can include not just the physical but the psychological world that we live in".[8]

According to Maya Lin, art should be an act of every individual willing to say something new and that which is not quite familiar.[8] Lin describes her creative process as having a very important writing and verbal component. She first imagines an artwork verbally in order to understand its concepts and meanings. Gathering ideas and information is especially vital in architecture, which focuses on humanity and life and requires a well-rounded mind.[21] When a project comes her way, she tries to "understand the definition (of the site) in a verbal before finding the form to understand what a piece is conceptually and what its nature should be even before visiting the site".[8]

In 1999, Lin exhibited Il Cortile Mare (1998), furniture design, maquettes and photos of works at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.[22]

In 2000, Lin re-emerged in the public life with a book entitled Boundaries.[23] Also in 2000, she agreed to act as the artist and architect for the Confluence Project, a series of outdoor installations at historical points along the Columbia River and Snake River in the states of Washington and Oregon. This is the largest and longest project that she has undertaken so far.[24]

In 2002, Lin was elected Alumni Fellow of the Yale Corporation, the governing body of Yale University (upon whose campus sits another of Lin's designs: the Women's Table – designed to commemorate the role of women at Yale University), in an unusually public contest. Her opponent was W. David Lee, a local New Haven minister and graduate of the Yale Divinity School who was running on a platform to build ties to the community with the support of Yale's unionized employees. Lin was supported by Yale's President Richard Levin, other members of the Yale Corporation, and was the officially endorsed candidate of the Association of Yale Alumni.

In 2003, Lin served on the selection jury of the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition. A trend toward minimalism and abstraction was noted among the entrants, finalists, and the chosen design for the World Trade Center Memorial.

In 2005, Lin was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. In the same year,[25] she also designed the new plaza that anchors the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine.[26]

Lin was commissioned by Ohio University to design what is known as "Input" in that institution's Bicentennial Park,[27] a landscape designed to resemble a computer punch card. The work relates to Lin's first official connection with the university. The daughter of the late Professor Emerita of English Julia Lin and the late Henry Lin, dean emeritus of the College of Fine Arts, Maya Lin studied computer programming at the university while in high school. The installation resides in a 3.5-acre park and consists of 21 rectangles, some raised and some depressed, resembling computer punch cards that were a mainstay of early programming[28]

In 2007, Lin installed Above and Below, an outdoor sculpture at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Indiana. The artwork is made of aluminum tubing that has been electrolytically colored during an anodization process.

In 2008, Lin completed a 30-ton sculpture called 2 x 4 Landscape, made of many pieces of wood, which was exhibited at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, California.[29] Her current projects include an installation at the Storm King Art Center.[30][31]

In 2009, Lin completed Silver River, her first work of art in Las Vegas, which is part of a public fine art collection at MGM Mirage's CityCenter, which opened December 2009. Lin created an 84-foot (26 m) cast of the Colorado River made entirely of reclaimed silver. With the sculpture, Lin wanted to make a statement about water conservation and the importance of the Colorado River to Nevada in terms of energy and water.[32] The sculpture is displayed behind the front desk of the Aria Resort & Casino.

In 2009, Lin was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.[33]

In 2013 Lin completed her largest work to date, A Fold in the Field created using 105,000 cubic metres of earth covering 3 hectares. It forms part of a private collection within a sculpture park owned by Alan Gibbs located north of Auckland, New Zealand .[34]

Lin is now at work on what she calls "her final memorial",[35] the What Is Missing? Foundation, to commemorate the biodiversity that has been lost in the planet's sixth mass extinction. What Is Missing? aims to raise awareness about the loss of biodiversity and natural habitats by utilizing sound, media, science, and art for temporary installations and a web-based project. What Is Missing? exists not in one specific site, but in many forms and in many places simultaneously.[36]

Lin is represented by the Pace Gallery in New York City.[37]

Awards and honors

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

Chronological list of works

Maya Lin's 'Women's Table' in front of the Sterling Memorial Library commemorating the role of women at Yale University

Maya Lin calls herself a "designer", rather than an "architect".[39] Her vision and focus is always on how space needs to be in the future and what it means to people. She has tried to focus less on how politics influence design, but more on what emotions the space would create and what it would symbolize to the user. Her belief in a space being connected and the transition from inside to outside being fluid, coupled with what a space means, has led her to create some very memorable designs. Maya Lin has also worked on sculptures and landscape installations.

Below is a list of Maya Lin's most significant works.[40]



  1. 1 2 3 Rothstein, Edward. "Maya Lin". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  2. 1 2 Paul Berger (November 5, 2006). "Ancient Echoes in a Modern Space". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  3. Finding Your Roots, February 2, 2016, PBS
  4. Peter G. Rowe & Seng Kuan (2004). Architectural Encounters with Essence and Form in Modern China. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-68151-3.
  5. Donald Langmead (2011). Maya Lin: A Biography. ABC-CLIO. p. 5. ISBN 0-313-37854-1.
  6. Tom Lashnits (2007). Maya Lin. Asian Americans of Achievement Series. Infobase Publishing. p. 56. ISBN 1-4381-0036-1.
  7. "Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes". Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision". IMDb.
  9. Maya Lin Interview – Academy of Achievement. Retrieved on April 25, 2012.
  10. 1 2 "Between Art and Architecture: The Memory Works of Maya Lin". American Association of Museums. July–August 2008. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
  11. "Vietnam Veterans Memorial". Library of Congress. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  12. 1 2 "Facts and Figures". Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  13. "History". Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  14. Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Founder: Monument Almost Never Got Built
  15. Marla Hochman. "Maya Lin, Vietnam Memorial". Retrieved December 30, 2008.
  16. Kristal Sands. "Maya Lin's Wall: A Tribute to Americans". Jack Magazine. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
  17. Free Resources – Women's History – Biographies – Maya Lin. Gale (March 12, 2002). Retrieved on April 25, 2012.
  18. Maya Lin – Great Buildings Online. Retrieved on April 25, 2012.
  19. Frank H. Wu (2002). Yellow: Race In America Beyond Black and White. Basic Books. p. 95. ISBN 0-465-00639-6.
  20. Art:21 . Maya Lin's "Wave Field" PBS. Retrieved on April 25, 2012.
  21. Campbell, Robert (November 30, 2000). "Rock, Paper, Vision Artist and Architect Maya Lin Goes Beyond her Powerful Vietnam Veterans Memorial". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  22. R.J. Preece. (1999) "Maya Lin at American Academy, Rome". World Sculpture News / artdesigncafe. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  23. Maya Lin emerges from the shadows
  24. "A Meeting Of Minds". The Seattle Times. June 12, 2005. Archived from the original on May 7, 2006. Retrieved September 7, 2006.
  25. "Guide to the University of California, Irvine, Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Maya Lin Arts Plaza Project Records AS.123". Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  26. "Facilities, theatres, galleries, venues, rentals, classrooms and labs. | Claire Trevor School of Arts". Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  27. "Bicentennial Park".
  28. "Ohio University dedicates Bicentennial Park".
  29. Maya Lin looks at nature – from the inside. (October 24, 2008). Retrieved on April 25, 2012.
  30. Kino, Carol (November 7, 2008). "Once Inspired by a War, Now by the Land". New York Times. Retrieved November 9, 2008. On a gray, unusually muggy October day the artist and architect Maya Lin was showing a visitor around "Wave Field", her new earthwork project at the Storm King Art Center here. The 11-acre installation, which will open to the public next spring, consists of seven rows of undulating hills cradled in a gently sloping valley.
  31. Cotter, Holland (May 7, 2009). "Art Review | 'Storm King Wavefield': Where the Ocean Meets the Catskills". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
  32. Friess, Steve (December 16, 2009). "Artist Maya Lin Provides 'Silver River' for Vegas' CityCenter Megaresort". Sphere News. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  33. White House Announces 2009 National Medal of Arts Recipients. (February 25, 2010). Retrieved on April 25, 2012.
  35. "About the Project". What Is Missing?. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  36. Reed, Amanda. "What Is Missing?: Maya Lin's Memorial on the Sixth Extinction". World Changing. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  37. Kino, Carol (April 25, 2013). "'Maya Lin's New Memorial Is a City'". The New York Times. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  38. Graham Bowly (October 7, 2014). "Maya Lin Wins $300,000 Gish Prize". New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  39. In a 2008 interview, she said: "I’m not licensed as an architect, so I technically cannot label myself as an architect, although I would say that we pretty much produce with architects of record supervising. I love architecture and I love building architecture, but technically, legally, I’m not licensed, so I’m a designer.""Between Art and Architecture: The Memory Works of Maya Lin". American Association of Museums. July–August 2008. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
  40. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Presidential Lectures: Maya Lin. (November 5, 1989). Retrieved on April 25, 2012.
  41. Coelho, Courtney (April 22, 2015). "Under the Laurentide installed at BERT". News from Brown. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
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