Complicated Simplicity: Maya Lin by Jason Collins

Maya Ying Lin is an American artist and sculptor who is best known for winning a national design competition. The competition had artists design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that is in Washington, D.C. Lin’s best-known artworks are often linked with historical importance, such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Civil Rights Memorial

Lin’s artwork has always drawn inspiration from her natural surroundings, and she likes to incorporate them into her artworks or her sculptures as a way to ground them into the scenery they are in. 

Early Life and Education

Lin was born in Athens, Ohio, on the fifth of October, 1959. She is ethnically Chinese, as her parents both immigrated to the United States separately before meeting each other. However, Lin did not know she was ethnically Chinese until much later in her life, and only once she was in her 30s did Lin garner interest in her heritage and Chinese culture. 

While Lin was attending Athens high school, she also took classes at Ohio University, and her father was the dean at Ohio University College of Fine Arts. Once Lin had graduated from high school, she attended Yale University, where she got her Bachelor of Arts in 1981 and then acquired her Master of Architecture in 1986. 

The War Memorial

While Lin was still an undergraduate student at Yale University, she won a national public competition to design the war memorial for the Vietnam War, which the United States took part in. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed to honor the fallen US soldiers who were killed during the war.

Lin’s submitted design was one of 1,422 submissions to design the memorial. The design made use of a black granite slab that can honor the names of the 57,939 fallen soldiers. Since the memorial was completed, hundreds of more names have been added to the war memorial.

There was controversy about Lin being chosen as the winner of the competition as Lin is a young, ethnically Chinese woman. Some people found that it was an affront that a woman who was young and Chinese designed a memorial for American men who fought as soldiers. 

Lin stated that one of the main factors behind her winning is that the competition entry was submitted using a number instead of a name, as a way to keep the competition about the design and not the name behind it. Once her name was released, she was harassed by people after they found out she was the designer of the memorial. 

Maya Lin’s Other Works

In 1989, the Civil Rights Memorial, found in Montgomery, Alabama, was unveiled to the world. Lin was the designer behind this iconic memorial as well. Since then, Lin has designed over 17 different artworks and projects that have garnered a lot of praise for her designs. Some notable works include

To view more of her work, you can visit her studio website.

%d bloggers like this: