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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Great Americans A to Z: Maya Lin


M is for Maya Lin, (1959-still living!) an American installation artist, architectural designer, and author.


As a child, Maya was a homebody with few friends. She had a close-knit family (dad, mom, and one brother), and she loved school, studying, and doing creative things. Since she didn’t have many playmates, Maya made up her own world with art.

Maya’s parents raised her and her brother without gender differentiation. Her mother told her that she could aspire to any passion she had, as long as it was wholesome and not centered around money. Art was Maya’s passion from childhood, but she did not realize it at first. In college, she initially majored in pre-med zoology and wanted to work with animals. After the university’s advisor told her that her coursework would include dissecting live animals, Maya realized that she no longer wanted to study zoology. She switched her major and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in architecture.

When she was 21 years old and still in college, Maya entered a national contest to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Maya’s design (Entry #1026) won out of 1,421 submissions. Her design was a granite, V-shaped black wall with the names of slain or missing soldiers from the Vietnam War carved into its surface. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is in Washington D.C., and there are 58,272 names carved into the wall.


Maya received controversy for winning the contest. Among Vietnam veteran survivors, politicians, and other critics, Maya was deemed too young and inexperienced to know enough about the war to design the memorial. Along with age discrimination, she faced racial discrimination as well, when former presidential candidate Ross Perot called her an “eggroll” once he learned that the winner of the contest was Asian-American. To this day, Maya believes that she would have lost the contest if submissions had to include the designer’s name and not just an entry number.

Recalling this experience, Maya felt like the most hurtful thing was not the discrimination; what hurt her most was that her design had to be compromised. Maya wished for the memorial to pay tribute to the lives of the veterans with no regard to the political issues of the war. She knew that some of the families of fallen soldiers were against the war, and some supported the war. She wanted to design a memorial that would be sensitive to both sides by being apolitical and simply acknowledging the lives lost. Still, two traditional statues and the American flag were added to the memorial. When the wall was dedicated in 1982, Maya received no recognition. But as time passed, her memorial design proved its effect on people. The memorial is visited by as many as four million people every year.


When the families of veterans come to visit this memorial, they touch the names and are able to see their reflections on the wall. The experience is said to allow visitors to feel as if they are part of the fallen soldier whose name is being touched.


In 1988, Maya also designed the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery Alabama. This memorial pays tribute to lives lost in the Civil Rights movement.


Maya went on to design many more sites. Her accomplishments have made her the feature of an Academy Award-winning documentary titled Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. She also wrote a book titled Boundaries. In 2003, Maya served as a judge for the World Trade Center Memorial Competition. In 2005, she was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Maya received the National Medal of Arts award in 2009.

If you ask Maya what inspires her art, she will tell you:

“My work originates from a simple desire to make people aware of their surroundings and this can include not just the physical but the psychological world that we live in.” 

How do you feel about Maya's story? Have you visited any of the sites she designed? What are your thoughts on age discrimination? 


62 comments:

  1. I love your theme - so interesting! New follower from A to Z :)

    Melody

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    1. Thank you Melody! Maya Lin's story is so special.

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  2. A great American indeed.

    enjoy the rest of the A to Z Challenge.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, and you too!

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  3. You have a very informative theme. Love it! I didn’t know all these things about Maya before this. Discrimination of any sort - whethere age or race - is hurtful and unfair. People should be judged for their talent and personalities, not their age or skin or gender.

    Found your blog through Arlee Bird’s blog on the A-Z blog. Let’s get you to 50 followers today! :)

    ~ D is for Deecoded ~

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    1. Hey Dee, I agree with you on the topic of discrimination. I love to read stories of people who don't let it stop them. I love that discrimination was not Maya's chief concern, but her artistry was! Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. Her story is inspiring but there are parts of this story that are sad, just sad that she even had to overcome such harsh treatment and how wrong about the Vietnam wall. I am sure that breaks her heart as an artist. Lucy from Lucy's Reality

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    1. Lucy, I have heard some artists say that it can offend them when others try to alter their creation. I too think that Maya was heartbroken about the compromise. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. This is an awesome post Chontal thank you. I was very moved by it. Her memorial is simply beautiful - and in spite of the aggro and hurt she initially felt for her feelings of being compromised, she won out at the end.
    Bless Maya Lin!

    Susan Scott's Soul Stuff

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    1. You're welcome Susan, and thank you for your visit! She won BIG in the end. It appears as though she's living her dream now.


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  6. She's made quite an impact so far. No fan of age discrimination.

    Please read the post at Blogging from A to Z today (Friday April 19). I've featured your blog to help you gain some new blog followers. Don't forget to visit those who are your new followers and have left comments so you can thank them and reciprocally follow their blogs. We're trying to accomplish some fruitful networking today!

    Lee
    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Lee, thanks for the post! I read the AtoZ blog and am challenging myself to catch up (having fun too). Thanks for all of your help!

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  7. Thank you for sharing! You have a very nice blog here! You have a new follower from A to Z. :)

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    1. Hi Jessica, thank you for taking the time to follow me! I enjoyed your blog too, and am following.

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  8. This was incredible to read. I had no idea the memorial was designed by a woman, let alone a woman so young. I can't believe the Ross Perot comment. That's disgusting coming from a political figure. He would be flamed for that now, thankfully. How incredibly hurtful.

    thanks for sharing such an inspirational post.

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    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for visiting. I try to keep my political views to myself as best as I can when writing my posts. He has said some pretty hurtful things, and I don't often hear nice things about him.

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  9. Absolutely beautiful! I am touched and moved by Maya's simplicity and dedication.
    Your theme choice for the A to Z challenge is absolutely great. I will stay a bit longer to read on some of the other Great americans.
    With great respect!
    A

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    1. Actually the theme of your blog...!

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    2. Thank you Ambrozya! I'm glad you came to visit for a while. Respect to you as well. I really enjoyed your tribute to PEOPLE!

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  10. I don't like age discrimination, I feel it is ignorant and close minded. Thank you for sharing Maya's story. Brand new follower to your blog.
    Shawn at Reading Practice

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    1. I agree with you Shawn. Thanks for stopping by for the challenge and sharing your view on age discrimination. I'm following you to look what you wrote :)

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  11. Thank you for sharing Maya's story. I am inspired and moved by her work and I appreciate the message of her parents that she could follow anything she desired as long as it wasn't a pursuit of money. I'm happy to discover your blog through the A to Z Challenge and I look forward to reading more!

    -Cristyl @ www.mychillthoughts.com

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    1. Thanks Cristyl! I still wonder about how much room to give your kids and how much tracking and guidance needs to go on. But in Maya's case, it worked for her!

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  12. I didn't know any of this. Thanks for putting this info together. I'm impressed by what this lady has achieved.

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    1. Joy, Maya's story is a great one. Thanks for your visit.

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  13. She is an amazing woman, and somehow understood
    that your name is important. The Vietnam Memorial is the best! The idea of tracing your fingers over a soldier's name was more meaningful than any statue, witness the number of visitors to this memorial and how moving this memorial is to them. Thank you for this post!

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    1. Amazing she was, with a simple but powerful concept to mourn the loss of individuals without glorifying war.

      Thank you for reading!

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  14. Wow. Had no idea how the Vietnam Memorial was designed. She may have been right about her name and the entry number.


    Sonia Lal

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    1. Sonia, I think it's so interesting. No one could blame affirmative action here!

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  15. Wonderful post on a very interesting person.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Happy A-Zing

    Margot at A Devotional Mosaic and Spark My Creativity

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    1. Hi Margot, thank you for reading. Happy challenge.

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  16. Wow. I totally love your theme for the A-Z challenge. I'm thoroughly impressed. You rock. Keep on keepin' on.

    Dana at Waiter, drink please!

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  17. I think that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a beautiful piece of art and says so much. I like that the reflections of the visitors make them one with the memorial, with the soldiers that it represents.

    Age discrimination, no matter which direction it is aimed at, stinks. I am about to celebrate my 27th year of being age 21. :) There is a constant barrage of commercials telling me that I can't compete because I am no longer 20-ish, that I have to be nipped and tucked, and dye my hair, and have have parts of me lifted and inflated to be able to get a job over a younger woman. My brain isn't sufficient. My body is judged as inadequate because I am older, when it should be my knowledge, skill, and experience that are being judged for the job, not my aging body.

    If someone is up to the task, it shouldn't matter whether they are 21 or 47. The work should stand on its own.

    Just my two cents worth. I enjoyed your post and think this is an excellent theme!

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    1. Thank you Suzanne. I'm following you as well. I agree with you 100% on the age discrimination issue. You're so right--the work should stand on its own!

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  18. Fascinating bio. I never knew much about her. Yeah, Perot had a talent for putting his foot in it.

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  19. I've been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It's really impossible to describe in words how moved I felt as I read the names on a wall that stretched on and on...

    Thanks for sharing her story. I think it needs to be told.

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    1. Thank you Dana! I really enjoyed writing about her.

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  20. Have been to the Vietnam Memorial among others. It's very moving; though I confess I never heard of her. What a story, so glad you're teaching many of us about her. Discrimination due to gender, age, and skin color bothers me more then I can say. I'm not sure I followed what you meant when you said they added things to her design, that she felt made then political?

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    1. Yes, the flag pole and three statues of the soldiers were not in her original design for the memorial. They were added because people protested her design. She wanted visitors to see the lives lost, not be reminded of the war because not everyone agreed with the war. Thank you for your comment Sandy!

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  21. My husband and i try to take a weekend in DC at least once a year. The Vietnam Memorial is my very favorite of all the memorials. Maybe because I grew up in the sixties and seventies. I remember the first time walking beside that wall and the emotion it evoked..no other memorial did that the way that memorial did. Great post!

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  22. I loved the Vietnam Memorial.. Her intended effect of just thinking about those who died is definitely what I experienced. It's incredibly powerful. So sad to hear that she didn't get any recognition for it! But I'm glad they chose her design.

    AJ Lauer
    #atozchallenge helper minion
    Twitter: @ayjaylauer

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  23. Another wonderful post, Chontali. I admit--I didn't know who designed it.

    The discrimination--yep. I believe it exists.We live in a world that thinks that everyone should pay their dues, wait their turn.

    I've never seen the Memorial in DC, but did see the traveling one. It's humbling. Brought tears...

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  24. This was so moving. I had no idea who designed the Memorial and was touched to hear how sensitive she tried to be to all those impacted. Her quote that you shared really resonated for me.

    Lyre @ Lyre's Musings #atozchallenge

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  25. I've seen the memorials on television. They were wonderfully done. Excellent and touching post.

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  26. A truly great person.I have never seen her work, but her story is such an inspiration. :-)
    Short Story Ideas & Just Ermie

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  27. Her story is inspirational. thanks for sharing.

    Damyanti @Daily(w)rite Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge
    AZ blogs on Social Media

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  28. Wow. That was an amazing post. I've been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Until now I never knew who designed it. Thank you.

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  29. Such a lovely theme, and thanks to your blog posts I'm learning a lot of new things! Keep the good posts coming!

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  30. Love your blog - uplifting and important! Thanks.

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  31. I have not visited the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall, but I know people who have, and they have all been very moved by it. Nice to know the story of the designer. Thank you for sharing.

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  32. I really love the theme of your blog! Glad I discovered it thanks to the amazing A to Z Challenge! I'll return to learn more about great Americans. Thanks so much for sharing this information.

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  33. This was a fascinating biography. Thank you so much for sharing a piece of Maya's story. I have been to the Vietnam memorial many times and each time I go, I find out something more about it. It is a moving experience. God bless, Maria from Delight Directed Living

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  34. Great theme and great choice for M. I've been to the Memorial and think she did a great job making it apolitical.

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  35. Almost at 50 followers! You did well and not too shabby on the comments for this post.

    Lee
    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

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  36. That was a great post!

    I almost feel ashamed to admit I had never heard of Maya Lin, but you did such a great job with this bio. I think it's so cool that she used her vision and creativity for such positive things that everyone could enjoy.

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  37. I have been to both memorials and they are incredible. Every American needs to see them and never forget what they represent. I have family names on the Vietnam Wall and that is the closest I'll get to them since they were killed the year before I was born.
    I have to say I do love the statues and flags that were added. It felt like it was part of the original intent. I'm sorry to hear it wasn't.

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  38. I'm glad I found your post. I was a theater costume designer for about 25 years. I was contracted a number of years ago by the Asian American Theatre Company in San Francisco California and the play we did was about this artist.

    Gloria Grandy, Cre8tiv Glory
    A to Z Blog Challenge

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  39. I have only been to one memorial, but before I die, I hope to make it to Oskar Schindler's grave in the Holy Land. I enjoyed your post. I am your newest blog follower, from the challenge.

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Chontali Kirk
chontalikirk.blogspot.com