All art is the product of its creator’s imagination, expression, ideology, persuasion, culture, beliefs, opinion and being. All art reflects at least one aspect of the artist responsible for creating it, whether or not the art form in question was born out of inspiration or necessity. Art is ultimately a piece of an artist or individual, recreated and translated to different forms such as oil and canvass, words and ink, a building, a dress, a painting, and so on. To the artist Maya Lin on the other hand, it exists in the monument that is the Vietnam War Memorial.
Apart from commemorating the lives of countless soldiers and civilians who died in the Vietnam war, the Vietnam War Memorial serves as a tangible reflection and representation of Lin’s awareness, sensitivity, concern, and artistic take on the subject matter. Lin’s sentiments regarding the war in Vietnam is made tangible in the seemingly simple but nonetheless affecting instance of two immense black walls, coming together in a V shaped structure, folded together in what appears like a book, cutting sharply towards the ground. Inscribed in the polished graphite walls are the number of individuals who were unwilling participants in the Vietnam war. Every inch of the wall is covered with names, and makes no distinction as to whether the people inscribed in the walls were victims or oppressors.
The memorial reflects the multidimensional aspect of Maya Lin’s humanity as experiencer, reporter, analyst and activist. Her beliefs and opinions regarding Vietnam are translated and reflected from the color of the wall, to the angle by which the walls were joined together, to the manner by which it was partly buried in the ground, and to the names of individuals who were involved in the war who were collectively etched into the face of the wall. On why she designed the memorial the way she did, Lin believes that as far as the instance of war is concerned, individuals are all that matters, everybody is a casualty, and they all need to be commemorated and remembered. As to the design of the structure, she relates,
I though about what death is, what a loss is. A sharp pain that lessens with time, but can never quite heal over… Take a knife and cut open the earth, and with time the grass would heal it. As if you cut open the rock and polished it.” (Lin).
The Vietnam War Memorial has been met with controversy and mixed reactions, and although it may not encompass the differing sentiments of Americans and people involved in the Vietnam war, it at least is able to embody and communicate Maya Lin’s views and opinions for others to appreciate, dislike, or at the very least acknowledge and discuss; ascribing her the role not only of artist, but also of reporter, analyst and activist.
“Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” Artifice Inc. Retrieved 30 January 2008 from HYPERLINK “http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Vietnam_Veterans_Memorial.html”http://www.grea