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Designing Memorials

Designing Memorials

More From Maya

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Lin on her series of major memorial commissions and her approach to the past.

Maya 's Biography

Artistic Crush: Robert Smithson after seeing his Site/Non-Site at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
First Job: Working in the sewing department of a five and dime shop called Murphy's Mart.
An Apple Not Far from the Tree: The daughter of a Dean of Fine Arts and Literature Professor, Lin was a "bookish" child, casting bronzes by age 16.
Environmentalist Roots: She traces her environmentalism to growing up during the fight for the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and to constantly roaming the woods that surrounded her Athens, Ohio home.

In nearly three decades of practice, Maya Lin has completed large site-specific art installations, intimate studio works, residential and institutional architecture, and, of course, memorials. It’s a varied oeuvre that draws equally on her training as an artist and as an architect. Lin was a Yale undergraduate when she won the blind competition for design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Washington DC’s National Mall. At 21, she became the youngest architect and first woman, to design a memorial on the National Mall. It was a design that flew in the face of all conventions –  a black granite wall, to be set in the earth as a gash, inscribed the names of all those lost. The selection sparked bitter opposition from veterans' groups, but once constructed, the objections faded. It was a new kind of tribute, born of a new sensibility, and is now seen as a benchmark in memorial architecture.
 
Lin’s subsequent work has grappled with identity, spirit and the natural world. In 2009 she installed Storm King Wavefield, a permanent site-specific outdoor work for the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, NY. A committed environmentalist, she is at work on her last memorial, What is Missing? a multi-sited artwork that raises awareness about the current crisis surrounding biodiversity and habitat loss.

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