A few weeks ago in my Sophomore Research Seminar, my professor took a part of the class to watch some of a documentary about Maya Lin. As I would come to find out, Lin was the designer of the (controversial) Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as the Civil Rights Memorial. She was only a senior at Yale when she designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Her approach to memorialization and funerary objects is much different than many memorial pieces we see today, as it has much to do with raw emotion and connection. I was very excited when I learned that she was going to be speaking in the Nott Memorial the week after we watched her documentary, and appreciated my professor giving the class exposure to Lin’s work.

Maya Lin

She often uses real rivers and estuaries in her art, pictured here as made out of marbles. (Also pretty sure we own the same shoes.)

For some reason, (probably because it was what the documentary was largely about), I expected her talk to be about the trials and tribulations she faced during the creation and completion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. However, she talked nothing about that and instead spoke about her new initiatives in art and architecture, and how, in her role as an artist, she hopes to benefit others and even the world. Unbeknownst to me, she is extremely environmentally conscious in her work, and talked largely on that topic.

11 Minute Line

“11 Minute Line” located in a Swedish cow pasture.

Most, if not all, of her artwork stems from geological and environmental sources. She has amazing ideas coming (like Greenprint), and will keep on working on these initiatives to build a sustainable future for our planet. Below is the video she ended her talk with, at the center of her new, beautiful website, What is Missing?, which collects memories and pictures about how things used to be in the past from anyone who will contribute. Did you know that cod fish used to grow as large as tuna? There are innumerable interesting excerpts to be discovered, and submission is highly encouraged to create an even larger database of knowledge. I appreciated what she had to say in her talk and I greatly look forward to hearing more about her accomplishments with What Is Missing? 

We are very privileged at Union College to host such great speakers like Maya Lin, which is made possible through a gift from the Feigenbaum Foundation. “The foundation was created by brothers Armand V. Feigenbaum ’42 and Donald S. Feigenbaum ‘46, longtime benefactors to Union. Acknowledged world leaders in systems engineering and total quality control, the brothers founded General Systems Co., the Pittsfield, Mass.-based international systems engineering firm that designs and helps implement operational systems for corporations and governments worldwide.” (quote from Union College)