Maya Lin, Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Maya Ying Lin (born October 5, 1959) is an American designer, architect, and artist who is known for her work in sculpture and land art. She achieved national recognition at the age of 21 while still an undergraduate at Yale University when her design was chosen in a national competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Rothstein, Edward. “Maya Lin”. The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
The Vietnam Veteran Memorial is a 2- acre U.S. nation memorial in Washington D.C. The Memorial is made up of two 246 feet 9 inches long black granite walls, polished to a high finish making them appear to have a mirror effect. The memorial is etched with names of servicemen being honored in 144 panels of horizontal row with regular typeface and spacing. The walls are sunken in the ground and at the highest tip they are 10.1 feet high. Inscribed in the memorial are the names of service members classified as “declared dead”; as the memorial contains names of individuals who had died due to circumstances other than killed in action, including murder, vehicle accidents, drowning, heart attack, animal attack, snake bites and others. “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund – Founders of The Wall”. www.vvmf.org. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is on of the most controversial works of the 1980s, it lies on the northwest corner of the National Mall in Washington D.C. It is between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Lin wanted to honor those who sacrificed their lives by giving this experience to help their loved ones come to terms with the death of their loved ones. A place where they could come gather and reflect. But this made some uncomfortable and when the project was accepted, the backlash was swift and fierce. Some who had supported the U.S. military involvement saw it as criticism in the absence of heroic figures and other obvious symbols of honor and sacrifice, and dismissed it as a “black gash of shame”. Also, Lins’ ethnicity was controversy, she is Asian American her parents were from China. This design caused an intense debate. Maya Ying Lin was criticized for being too young, for being the daughter of Chinese immigrants and for not understanding American Culture well enough and also was thought to be too liberal. Lin makes a point of saying she does not like to revisit the debate of her design because the subject is painful. But she says what happened in the 1980s with her project gives her perspective on today’s politics, particularly the call to remove controversial memorials to Confederate generals. Before the memorial was built, it was seen by many veterans as another abstract modernist work that the public would find difficult to interpret also thought it would be looked at as a taboo about the remembrance of wars. Also, the color black was considered to be racist the more traditional color was white stone. There was also debate whether or not it was a passive work that reflects a female sensibility. Lin also said “as with the dilemma of how Americans can find a way to memorialize the pain of terrorism, the question of what to do with the Confederate memorials will take time to resolve.”
Consequently, a plan was devised to erect an alternative. As a concession to conservative critics, Frederich Hartt constructed a bronze sculpture of three realistic soldiers. One black and two white with guns slung over their shoulders and ammunition around their waists standing looking the general direction of the wall.
Lin’s structure, was unveiled on Veterans Day in 1982. Now this remains a place of historic honor and reflection, it is now accepted as a major milestone in 20th- century art. When the Memorial was unveiled some people praised it healing qualities, and its quiet power. This has been one of the most bitterly disputed public monuments in American history. It created a political firestorm, which may have had more to do the wounds of the war than the artwork.
There have been several hundred names added to the memorial since it was first built. The largest number of names added per year took place on Memorial Day 1986. The decision to include the deaths of aircraft pilots and crews, who supported direct combat missions. On Memorial Day in 2011, five addition names were honored on the wall.
My 7th grade year for our class trip I had the honor of standing in front of the wall and looking out at the etching of names. Many emotions come across as you stand there looking touching and feeling the engraved names. You make your journey along the wall with a hand extended feeling the incredible losses. We were able to take paper and pencils and take tracing. Being so young I probably did not feel the emotions I would feel now standing at the wall knowing as much as I do now. I think Maya Lin achieved so much with her simple design.