Dematerializing the Memorial: An Interview with Maya Lin

Date: September 2017
Skills: Writing
Client: Art21 Magazine

Maya Lin is often defined by her first memorial, which catapulted her to the national stage in 1981 when she was still a twenty-one-year-old undergrad at Yale. Her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial reenvisioned what a memorial could be—remembering the lives lost in one of our nation’s most controversial wars, not through a grandiose statue, but by quietly and reverentially carving their names into two walls of black granite.

Now, almost four decades later the artist is reinventing the memorial again through her environmental activist foundation, What is Missing. She describes it as her “last memorial,” and the project aims to both document and track ecosystem change and offer ways in which we can actively participate in the preservation of our planet—an especially pressing charge in a time when natural disasters are happening simultaneously all over the world.

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