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Identity: Maya Lin. (GalleryCard).

Maya Lin, Avalanche, (to the back far right), 1997. Tempered glass, 10 x 19 x 21" (25 x 48 x 53 cm). From the "Topologies" Exhibit. Courtesy the Gagosian Gallery, New York, and South Eastern Center for Contemporary Art. Photo by Jackson Smith.

Maya Lin, Untitled (Topographic Landscape), (foreground), 1997. Particle board, 16 x 18 x 2' (5 x 5.5 x.6 m). From the "Topologies" Exhibit. Courtesy the Gagosian Gallery, New York, and South Eastern Center for Contemporary Art. Photo by Jackson Smith.

About the Art

Avalanche is a large, triangular pile of sparkling bits of blue-green glass. As you walk by the piece, the clean bright glass reflects the gallery light, producing a light show all over the viewer. Thus, the action of walking involves the viewer in a dialog, and a visually delightful experience with the spotlighted work. Removed from the gallery setting and lighting, it is a triangular pile of eleven tons of broken glass.

The 128 slabs of unpainted particle board that make up Untitled (Topographic Landscape) recall the terraced facades of desert dunes, or the rolling surface of the ocean. The piece looks like a cross section of the earth's crust, sort of a topographical silhouette. The fluidity and layering of the individual slabs create an illusion of movement and echo the quiet calm of a barren landscape or the contemplative peacefulness of a well-planned garden.

About the Artist

Born to Chinese parents in Athens, Ohio in 1959, Maya Lin grew up in an artistic and cultured home. Her father was the dean of fine arts at Ohio University, and her mother was a professor of literature. As a child she spent hours building little towns and sculptures in her bedroom. She was just twenty-one, and a senior at Yale University, when her design for the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial was chosen from over 1,400 entries. Trained as an architect and artist, she believes that art involves her mind as well as her hands. She once said, "I find it fun to be thinking all the time, figuring things out."

Things to Consider

Compare Avalanche and Topographic Landscape, noting similarities and differences in materials and techniques. Maya Lin says that she draws inspiration for her sculpture and architecture from culturally diverse sources, including Japanese gardens, Hopewell, Indiana earthen mounds, and works by American earthworks artists of the 1960s and 1970s. Consider how the artworks pictured here support this claim.

GalleryCard submitted by Art:21, Inc. as a resource for the television series, "Art for the 21st Century. The series premiered in September 2001. For the free full-color teacher's guide to this series, e-mail request for Art:21 guide to or visit
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Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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