Maya Lin is returning to Washington DC for the first time in more than 25 years. Her exhibit titled “Systematic Landscapes” opened at the Corcoran last Saturday and will run until July 12.
Maya describes herself as an architect, an artist and a creator of monuments. She was a 21 year old architecture student at Yale student when her blind entry submission, one of 1,400, was chosen as the design winner for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The committee that chose her entry as the winner was composed of 8 men, none had Vietnam experience but all were professional artists or architects.
“Soon after Lin's concept was approved by the appropriate government agencies, a group of veterans began to protest the design. Their leader called the wall a "black gash of shame" and said it was insulting to the memory of those who had died. They wanted a traditional white marble sculpture featuring figures of soldiers. This group even attacked Lin herself with sexist and racist slurs. The debate over the memorial — which mirrored the larger issue of unresolved national pain lingering from the war era and the treatment and dire circumstances of many of its veterans — raged for almost a year, with veterans, writers, artists, and the public weighing in with their opinions. A compromise was finally reached: a traditional monument would be installed near the entrance of the site to the memorial wall.” (from http://www.gale.cengage.com/free_resources/whm/bio/lin_m.htm”)
What is incredible to me about this woman, this artist is her continued growth and creative vision. As a Yale student her submission and vision for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was attacked and vilified. She was assailed as someone who could not possibly understand the American point of view. I am amazed that she did not crumble and give up her dreams.
She defended her vision for the Vietnam Memorial throughout years it took from submission to dedication. What person in their 20’s has it in them to be able to do that? Of course, the Vietnam Memorial is now the most visited memorial in DC and brings up so much emotion for those who visit it.
This is what I wish I could bottle and study; the strength of character and sense of self it took for her to continue and create and achieve despite all the initial criticism. Her art continues to touch us to our core and to expand our thought process and frankly to surprise us. A documentary about this artist, “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision” won the 1995 Academy Award for Best Documentary.
The “Systematic Landscapes” exhibit opened at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle in 2006. It is finally reaching Washington, D.C. From what I have read she is going to make sure she gets it just right, in this, the city of her birth as an artist. I am definitely going to make it to the Corcoran before the exhibit closes.
Here is a video of the exhibit:
Here is a short interview: