One Life: Maya Lin

I feel I exist on the boundaries, somewhere between science and art, art and architecture, public and private, East and West. I am always trying to find a balance between these opposing forces, the place where opposites meet. —Maya Ying Lin

Born to Chinese immigrant parents in 1959, Maya Lin grew up amidst the streams, woods, sandstone cliffs, carpets of moss, and wildlife of rural Ohio. “Looking back, I realize I led a very insulated and isolated childhood,” she recalls. Her mother and father were professors, and she credits them with cultivating her creativity and intellectual curiosity. For Lin, “Each project becomes a way for me to learn about a new field, whether it is aerospace engineering, the study of light, or the history of civil rights.”

In 1981, after her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was selected from 1,421 entries, Lin was unwittingly thrust into the limelight. Four decades later, she remains one of the most influential artists and architects of our time. Best known for her large-scale, site-specific installations, architectural works, and memorials, Lin also creates intimate studio artworks. The common thread, she notes, is “the love and respect I have for the natural world.”

Maya Lin working on Eclipsed Time [detail] / Adam Stoltman (born 1960) / Reproduction of photograph from c. 1993–94 / Courtesy of Adam Stoltman
30 September 2022 to 16 April 2023
National Portrait Gallery
8th and G Streets NW
20001 Washington, DC
National Portrait Gallery
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