Maya Lin speaks on environment at Boston lecture
By Ling-Mei Wong
Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, spoke Jan. 24 to a packed lecture hall at the Boston Central Library in Copley Square. The lecture was part of the “Common Ground” Lowell Lecture Series, part of the Building Boston initiative.
Lin discussed her work, Chinese-American heritage and commitment to the environment. She has created large installations, intimate studio artworks, architecture and memorials, for which she won a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2009.
“I’ve spent my life balancing my work and my monuments,” Lin said. “Monuments are a hybrid of function and symbolism.”
Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., beat 1,441 submissions in 1981, while she was still a 21-year-old Yale student. The concept was a granite V-shaped wall with 58,272 names carved into it, cut into the earth to symbolize a wound.
“The Vietnam Memorial brings a beginning and end; it goes full circle,” she said. “It was never an object in the earth, but about cutting the earth open and polishing it like geode, so the names come to the surface.”
Design runs in Lin’s blood. Her aunt Huiyin Lin is reputed to be the first female architect in China. Lin’s family moved from Fujian, China, in 1949 and settled in Athens, Ohio, where she was born in 1959.
Lin’s work on the Museum of Chinese America included a map in the entry, showing where people came from in China and where they moved to in the United States.
Lin’s artwork emphasizes conservation. One of her works at the U.S. embassy in Beijing is the Yangtze River, cast in red on a wall.
“One of the aides came up and said, ‘It looks like a dragon. I can’t see the Yangtze anymore,’” Lin said. “Rivers remind you of something else.”
Lin invited the audience to share their memories for her project, “What is Missing?” (http://whatismissing.net). The interactive map is made up of dots, each one representing a memory of nature that has diminished or disappeared at that location.
“Atlantic cod in 1855 used to be bigger than a man and now we’ve collapsed the fish stocks,” Lin said. “We look at what we’re losing not to depress us, but to remember what used to be.”
The Boston Public Library will post the lecture to its YouTube videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/bostonpubliclib.
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