Environmentally-minded polymath Maya Lin describes her entree into the art world as a "crazy trial by fire," referring to the stir her winning undergraduate design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1981 amongst America's conservative elite. Since then, Lin has overcome prejudice of all stripes in her peerless career as a multi-valent designer, architect, and innovator, going on to rack up both a National Medal of Arts and Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and 2016, respectively. We were fortunate to visit Lin in her studio as she opened up about the difficulties she faced navigating the art world as a young woman of color and learn more about her process.
Watch the video below to join us on our studio visit, which was produced with the support of Kering, a global luxury group committed to the empowerment of women on the occasion of the Great Women Artists book and limited-edition portfolio. The book, published by Phaidon, features 400 artists over the last 500 years. Here's what it had to say about Maya Lin:
"Lin is an environmentalist who makes Land art, focusing on humanity's relationship with the spaces we inhabit or behold. Her material interventions in natural and urban landscapes transform the viewer's experience of their surroundings. As an undergraduate at Yale College in 1981, Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC was chosen in an open competition. Responding to its site on the National Mall, the work transformed expectations of public monuments by eschewing traditional figurative representation in favor of a sombre conceptual work that resembled an open wound cutting into the earth. Lin has also created this field of seven vast waves of earth, each nearing 400 feet in length and whose peaks echo the surrounding mountains. Commissioned by Storm King, an outdoor museum in upstate New York, the undulating ground rises and falls rhythmically like the ocean, evoking a sense of the sublime and the marvelous idea of walking on water. Not only encouraging the viewer to become rooted in nature, the work also provokes thought about our fragile planet, where climate change and rising sea levels threaten to engulf the land and leave many people rootless."
And now, Lin in her studio: