Maya Lin is an American architect and artist who rose to prominence with her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Most of her artworks ranging from small sculptures displayed in galleries to magnificent large environmental installations seem to take inspiration from the natural features and landscape. Born to Chinese parents who immigrated to United States before her birth, Lin was a reserved child and did not have many friends. She was a bright kid who enjoyed her studies and kept herself entertained through reading, hiking, and working in her father's ceramics studio. After completing high school, she attended Yale University to pursue graduation in architecture and subsequently her best-known work, the design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., grew out of a class project during her senior year. Later, after earning a master’s degree in architecture, she got involved in artistic endeavors and built another famous memorial for the Civil Rights movement. In an attempt to avoid being typecast as a builder of memorials, she later shifted to other forms of architectural works such as glass sculptures and art installations. In her long and fruitful career, she has received much recognition for her artistic creations and still continues to be an active sculptor and architect
Childhood & Early Life
Maya Lin was born on October 5, 1959, in Athens, Ohio, to Henry Huan Lin, a ceramist and former dean of the Ohio University College of Fine Arts, and his wife, Ming Hui, a professor at the Ohio University.
Her family had migrated to the United States from China in 1949, and finally settled in Ohio in 1958, one year before the birth of Maya. She is the youngest child in her family with an older brother, Tan A. Lin, who grew up to be an English professor and poet.
As a child, she stayed at home most of the time and did not have many friends to interact with. Apart from enjoying regular studies, she also took independent courses from Ohio University and spent her free time casting bronzes in the school foundry.
After finishing high school, she attended the Yale University and graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture. During her senior year of graduation, she won a public design competition in which she submitted a design for a monument to honor those who fought in the Vietnam War.
In 1986, she completed her post-graduation with an MA in Architecture from Yale University.
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In 1988, she went on to design a monument for the civil rights movement on behalf of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Civil Rights Memorial was built in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1989.
In 1993, she sculptured ‘The Women’s Table’, which commemorated the coeducation of women at Yale, and also designed ‘Groundswell’, an installation of 43 tons of glass pebbles at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1995, she designed the ‘Wave Field’ at the University of Michigan, in which she reshaped grass-covered terrain to resemble undulating ocean waves.
In 2000, she worked as the artist and architect for the Confluence Project, in which she was commissioned to create a series of seven art installations along the Columbia River and Snake River.
In 2005, she designed the new plaza that anchors the ‘Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ at the University of California, Irvine.
In 2007, she installed ‘Above and Below’, an outdoor sculpture at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Indiana. The following year, she completed ‘2 x 4 Landscape’, a 30-ton sculpture made of many pieces of wood.
In 2009, she completed her first work of art in Las Vegas named ‘Silver River’, an 84-foot cast of the Colorado River made entirely of reclaimed silver.
In 2013, Lin completed ‘A Fold in the Field’, her largest work to date which was created using 105,000 cubic metres of earth and it covered three hectares.
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In 1981, while still an undergraduate, Maya Lin entered a nationwide competition sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and created a design for a monument honoring those who had served and died in the Vietnam War. Her award-winning design consisted of a polished black granite V-shaped wall inscribed with the names of the approximately 58,000 men and women who were killed or missing in action.
Awards & Achievements
In 2003, she was honored with the prestigious ‘Finn Juhl Prize’.
In 2005, Lin was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.
In 2005, the American Institute of Architects conferred its ‘25-Year Award’ upon the monument she designed for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
In 2009, she was presented with the ‘National Medal of Arts’ by President Barack Obama.
In 2014, she was awarded the ‘Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize’, a $300,000 art prize, to honor her noteworthy contributions to art.
She has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Yale University, Harvard University, Williams College, and Smith College.
Personal Life & Legacy
Maya Lin is married to Daniel Wolf, a New York photography dealer. The couple is blessed with two daughters, India and Rachel.