By Shershah Atif
BU News Service
Internationally renowned artist and designer Maya Lin visited the Boston University College of Fine Arts last Thursday, September 24, to deliver a keynote address at the 43rd Annual Conference of the National Council of Arts Administrators.
Her speech covered a range of topics, from her favorite pieces, to the political ramifications of modern American priorities.
Lin’s work merges technology and science with art and architecture to create large-scale site-specific installations that invoke the interconnectedness of any artistic endeavor. Best known for her design of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and Civil Rights Memorial, Lin’s experimentation with incorporating the natural world in her art challenges the viewer to see with new eyes.
“As kids when we look at something in the natural world, we really look at it, but as we get older, we know what it looks like and we actually stop looking at it,” Lin said.
The question of how to make the absent tangible is answered in her exhibition, “The History of Water,” which replicates wave fields of different scales using only natural materials. The smallest at 10,000 square feet is at the University of Michigan. Students can lie down and lean against the rolls.
Lin built a similar wave field at the Federal Courthouse in Miami, which covers 30,000 square feet. Her largest work is the “Storm King Wavefield” in the Hudson Valley, where the wave rolls stand at 15 feet and cover 240,000 square feet, instilling a sensation of being at the ocean.
Although beautifully minimalistic, Lin’s installations require arduous research.
“I use sonar mappings of the ocean, satellite and microscopic views to review aspects of nature that you might not be thinking of,” she said.
Her sculpture, “Silver River,” which hangs at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, is a 87-foot representation of the Colorado River, the city’s water source, made entirely of recycled silver. The piece also speaks to the issues around water supply and drought, which Lin predicts will only become more of an issue as time goes on.
Lin said that her favorite pieces “tap into childhood, memory and language,” all of which are incorporated into the Bicentennial Park in Lin’s hometown of Athens, Ohio. The “Earthwork Installation,” or “Language Garden,” comprises of 21 rectangles, some depressed and some raised, with original quotes by her brother engraved into each rectangle. The viewer can read the rectangles in any order, which parallels the non-linear functionality of human memory.
Lin’s “last memorial,” titled “What is Missing,” is large scale installation that crosses artistic boundaries while also bringing awareness to the crisis of biodiversity and habitat loss. The work will exist in scientific institutions, online as a website, and as a book. The goal of the exhibition is to change how people live, what they spend their money on, and rethink priorities.
“We’re having the world’s biggest party, and someone will have to pay the piper,” Lin said.