lin

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. Ms. Lin clambered nimbly up and down them, regarding each nook, cranny and blade of grass with something of a proprietary air.

“It’s part of a study that started with looking at a simple water wave,” she explained en route, “and how does the wave begin or end.” Given that she was working with land, not water, she added, “I was almost afraid to start it…”

Seen from afar the piece does suggest an expanse of ocean waves that have been frozen in place, as well as many other things: snowdrifts, a Zen moss garden, perhaps a cluster of the American Indian burial mounds that can be found in the hills of southeastern Ohio, where Ms. Lin grew up.
With its sense of having arisen naturally from the earth, the earthwork also recalls Ms. Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the design for which catapulted her to stardom and notoriety in 1981, when she was a 21-year-old senior at Yale…

In a sense Ms. Lin’s entire career has been interplay among what she regards as three separate strands: she is an architect and an artist, and she also designs memorials (she likes to call them anti-monuments) that fall somewhere between the two. She has been pursuing all three directions since she finished the Vietnam memorial in 1982. That project transformed her into something of an instant celebrity, and she was offered a number of architectural commissions as a result. But Ms. Lin, who in person is strikingly friendly and unassuming, does not seem to have let the experience turn her head…

In the past Ms. Lin has always conceived of her different career strands as separate. “I think it may be the only way I can keep myself balanced,” she said. Although she is also working on a commission for the Museum of Chinese in America in Chinatown in Manhattan, she is reluctant to talk about such projects and her artwork in the same breath. “It kind of confuses people,” she said.

Yet recently she has been coming around to the idea that the strands may be intertwined. “My greatest fear 15 years ago is that the different parts weren’t in dialogue with each other,” she said. “But whether it’s art, architecture or memorials, I realize now that all my work is intrinsically tied to the natural landscape around us.”

Carol Kino
New York Times

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