Maya Lin, Prose Poet
February 16, 2007
The AIA's Twenty-five Year Award honors architectural structures that have stood for twenty-five to thirty-five years and have shown lasting importance to the culture throughout. Artdaily reports that AIA selected Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial for the 2007 award. Erected in 1982, the Memorial was singled out by the AIA in its first year of eligibility; in 1984 it was awarded the AIA Honor Award for Architecture.
When Maya Lin spoke as part of the Clarice Smith Distinguished Lectures in American Art series, she presented slides of recent works and spoke about an ambiguity in her works—which are sculptural and architectural. Boundaries, her aptly titled first book, features many of the artworks and architectural sites Lin highlighted.
She likens these to "prose poetry," referencing a debate that consumed literary circles in the nineteenth century. (Baudelaire, who is well known to artists, was one French poet who rejected the alexandrine form of poetry, instead creating new texts with characteristics of prose and poetry. These puzzled critics and readers—how should they be classified? Works that drew from both traditions forced followers of literature to reexamine their existing notions about the genres.) Lin divides her sculpture-architectural work into categories of "poetry" (primarily sculptural) and "prose" (primarily architectural), though the distinction is often subtle or hidden.
"In historic times, landscape painters gave you an idea of nature," said Lin, describing painting as a portal to unseen and remote realms. She describes her own work as employing technology in order to explore a perspective not available to the conventional viewer. Inevitably, whether in profound or subtle ways [can something be profound and subtle?], her works tap the landscape—it is one of the distinguishing features of her body of work and certainly a reason that even her most object-oriented sculptures have an architectural feel.
- Maya Lin, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The American Institute of Architects, American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum
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