In 2011, Maya Lin set to work on her "final memorial," a website dedicated to endangered species. Called "What is Missing?", the ongoing project seeks to draw attention to the causal link between species extinction and the destruction that is being wreaked upon their natural habitats, by mapping and recording stories of loss through video, sculpture, and experiential installation. The associated works, such as this year's ornithological soundscape sculpture "Sound Ring," rely heavily on scientific research to accurately describe and replicate natural phenomena.
This clear commitment to ecology, conservation, and the natural world comes into focus with a renewed sense of poetry and abstraction in "Platform: Maya Lin," a new exhibition of recent work at the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, NY. Mapping, a process that played heavily into "What is Missing?", is again a tool of both representation and discovery in three major sculptural works, all of which take a macro view of our bodies of water, though often abused and in short supply, as living, breathing forms.
Maya Lin (American, born 1959) Left to Right: Mecox Bay (2014),Georgica Pond (2014), Accabonac Harbor (2014), recycled silver. Courtesy Pace Gallery, New York. Photo: Gary Mamay
For the Parrish exhibit, Lin considered three bodies of water local to the museum - Accabonac Harbor, Georgica Pond and Mecox Bay - and created maps of them from cast recycled silver. The outlines of their shapes are portrayed finely and in minute detail, but perhaps just as important is that they look so delicate, a testament to their precariousness as features and resources of the earth.
Maya Lin (American, born 1959) Pin River—Sandy, 2013, steel straight pins. Courtesy Pace Gallery, New York. Photo: Gary Mamay.
"Pin River - Sandy" (2013) is a similar mapping of a body of water on an opposite wall, however, this one is meticulously rendered with straight pins, depicting Hurricane Sandy's flood plain. Rather than highlighting nature's gifts, this one emphasizes its unpredictability, kinetic speed, and scale, which can sometimes exist beyond individual experience and imagination. The seemingly painstaking technique of creating it with pins also highlights the importance of materials and process to Lin's sculptures, which can greatly enhance the meaning of the final form. In this case it also raises questions about the gradual forces that played a part in one swift and destructive occurrence.
Installation view of the exhibition Platform: Maya Lin. Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York, July 4 to October 13, 2014. In foreground, three works in marble: Equator (2014), Latitude New York City (2013) and Arctic Circle (2013). On wall, Pin River — Sandy (2013), steel straight pins. Courtesy Pace Gallery, New York. Photo: Gary Mamay
"Around the World," a marble sculpture which looks like concentric rings with jagged edges, is actually three pieces: "Equator" (2014), "Latitude New York City" (2013) and "Arctic Circle" (2013). They are intricate representations of the ocean floor's topography, at each of those latitudes. As cross-sections, they compel you to think about the entirety of the ocean as the main feature of the earth, rather than what is limited by your view. Heavy and beautiful, these objects assert the interconnectedness of the planet's systems.
Much has been said about Lin's ability to work both as an architect and artist, and her work indeed represents the seamless overlap of the two disciplines in a way very few other practitioners have managed. Defining the distinction between the two, or defining at all, seems irrelevant, particularly in light of these recent works, which are representational, but also encourage experiencing and inhabiting space with conscious and purposeful vision. As the architectural sculptures of "Platform: Maya Lin" demonstrate, being aware of history and scale is a large part of not only understanding what we can't see but also navigating our spaces.
Top image: Installation view of the exhibition Platform: Maya Lin. Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York, July 4 to October 13, 2014. In foreground, three works in marble: Equator (2014), Latitude New York City (2013) and Arctic Circle (2013). On wall, (L to R) Mecox Bay (2014), Georgica Pond (2014), Accabonac Harbor (2014), recycled silver Courtesy Pace Gallery, New York. Photo: Gary Mamay