Celebrated for her Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. (which she conceived in 1981 while still an undergraduate at Yale), Maya Lin has focused her art on addressing various social and environmental issues for more than 30 years. Her current exhibition is a two-part, two-city affair (New York and London) in which she turns her attention to water—specifically lakes and rivers. In the process, the show touches on related topics such as endangered wildlife and the fragile nature of earth’s continuously changing landscape.
Three striking floor sculptures—made from local marble that’s been digitally carved and hand-polished—follow the line of peaks and valleys (both above and below sea level) circling the globe at the latitude of New York City. Cast-silver sculptural relief maps of the Great Lakes and the Niagara and Hudson Rivers shimmer like giant broaches on the walls. Other maps—made with steel pins stuck into the wall—capture the flow of the Hudson from its northernmost tributaries to its often-dirty discharge into the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the extent of its devastating surge during Hurricane Sandy.
The wake-up call here, however, is Lin’s multimedia Map of Memory. A Web-related installation, Map recounts the many regional extinctions over the past several centuries (like the Hudson’s formerly abundant oysters, for example), while warning of what may soon follow.—Paul Laster