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Maya Lin

(b. 1959)


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(1959– ).

Sculptor. Also an architect, landscape designer, and furniture designer. Although she had not yet graduated from college, in 1981 her design was selected from among more than fourteen hundred entries in a competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Completed in 1982, the unprecedented monument comprises two tapering black granite walls, more than ten feet high where they abut. Partially set into the earth at a wide angle to each other, each measures nearly 250 feet long. Arranged without hierarchy according to the dates of their deaths, the names of all U.S. military personnel killed in the war (more than fifty-eight thousand) are engraved on their polished, slightly reflective, black granite surfaces. Although criticized by some observers for its austerity and abstraction, the monument has found widespread acceptance as a suitable commemoration for the victims of a war that remains an unresolved affliction in the American psyche. With its acknowledgement of each individual death, its restrained rhetoric, and its openness to varied observer responses, her design has also proved highly influential on subsequent notions of public memorials. The first major public monument in the United States to adopt the minimalist vocabulary of the late twentieth century, Lin's memorial also suggests connections with aspects of the period's earth art. (Later added nearby to satisfy malcontents, two figurative sculptures officially completed the memorial. Lin's central creation is now designated as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.) Lin has gone on to design other public monuments, as well as gallery sculptures, while also pursuing a career as an architect and designer of interiors, landscapes, and furniture. Born in Athens, Ohio, Maya Ying Lin studied architecture at Yale University. Upon completion of her bachelor's degree in 1981, she supervised construction of the Vietnam monument and then went back to Yale to earn a master's degree in 1986. Among other projects, she has also designed a Civil Rights Memorial (1989) for Montgomery, Alabama, and the Women's Table (1993), celebrating women students, at her alma mater in New Haven, Connecticut. Throughout, her multidisciplinary work displays simplicity, harmony, and sensitivity to natural environments. Married to art and photography dealer Daniel Wolf, she lives in Manhattan and summers in Colorado. She shares insights into her work in Boundaries (2000).

Subjects: Art.


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