The artist and architect Maya Lin is best known for her work designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Lin designed that monument in 1981 when she was still a college senior. Since then, she’s gone on to design numerous buildings, sculptures, and landscape installations around the world.
Her latest exhibition Maya Lin: Flow opens Saturday at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Stateside talks to the museum’s chief curator Ron Platt about Lin’s inspiration for the exhibit, and what visitors can expect to see.
Platt says the exhibit gets its name from its focus on water, and is made up of seven large scale sculptural works.
“They sort of represent her different interests in scientific mapping and technology, her real sort of savvy understanding of materials and what they can do, and then her just interest in the environment and humankind’s relationship to the natural world,” Platt explained.
Lin created two new works for this exhibit that feature Michigan bodies of water. “Pin River” is a representation of the Grand River watershed created with tens of thousands of steel pins stuck in the gallery wall. Another new sculpture titled “The Traces Left Behind” stretches 15 feet long, and shows a series of North American lakes rendered in recycled silver reliefs.
“It shows all of the lakes, starting with Great Bear lake up near the Arctic circle going down all the way through the Great Lakes, all of the lakes which were created by the melting and movement of the glaciers,” said Platt.
One of the reasons the Grand Rapids Art Museum was interested in curating this new exhibit, Platt says, was to draw attention to “Ecliptic.” That’s the landscape installation and park designed by Lin that sits directly in front of the museum. It is better known as Rosa Parks Circle. That work, which Lin designed two decades ago, also centers around water in its different forms. It features a winter ice rink, a water vapor fountain, and a flat black stone fountain.
“Another thing about the piece that I think is so remarkable is it’s kind of date stamped. If you think about the lights that shine up through the floor of the rink, they’re based on a map of the sky above Grand Rapids at the turn of the millennium,” Platt said.
Maya Lin: Flow will also feature a smaller documentary exhibit on the creation of “Ecliptic” featuring models of the park and video footage. The exhibit will open Saturday, May 18 and run through September 8.