The Orlando Museum of Art is pleased to present, Maya Lin: A History of Water. This exhibition brings together sculptures, drawings and large-scale installations, as well as the artist’s multimedia memorial to the earth’s vanishing biodiversity and habitats. These works resonate with Maya Lin’s deep regard for the natural world, while revealing a creative practice that is informed by close observation, research and scientific data. Through works of expressive beauty, she challenges viewers to see the world in new ways and reconsider their relationship to the environment.
Landscape, global geography and the earth’s ecology are central concerns of Lin’s art. Within the broad scope of these themes, water has been a particular focus of ideas expressed in her work. This exhibition presents sculptures and drawings Lin has created since 2006 that address aspects of water ranging from its seductive visual appeal to its critical importance for natural and developed environments worldwide. Her work includes references to maps of Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge, networks of waterways that comprise the world’s great rivers, shrinking contours of endangered bodies of water, hidden undersea topography, permeable boundaries between land and water and dynamic wave forms.
Lin examines the natural world through the lenses of 21st century science and technology. She begins her work with extensive research that may include complex scientific data provided by sources such as remote satellite sensing imagery and sonar resonance scanning. Her work merges this systematic and technological interpretation of the world with her chosen sculptural materials by what she calls a “purely intuited gesture.” She says, “It’s a process that balances scientific data with the handmade. If the end form only looks like the idea of information, it fails. It has to become its own form – evocative, beautiful and strange.”
These works often reveal features of the natural world that individuals cannot easily see because of their geographic size or because they are concealed underwater. By reducing the scale of a river system, isolating a sea from its surrounding topography or removing an ocean to view undersea terrain, Lin provides new ways to understand these entities. Lin’s series of Silver Rivers and Pin Rivers present vast waterways on a gallery wall so they can be viewed as a comprehensive whole. Similarly, the series, Bodies of Water, presents enormous lakes and inland seas as three dimensional objects, lifted out of the landscape and set on pedestals to allow viewers to examine them above and below the water’s surface. “People focus on what they can see. In order to protect it, you have to see it in its entirety,” says Lin.
Pin River, Kissimmee, brings attention to a river currently undergoing a major project to restore its historic course. In the 1960s, the Kissimmee River was made into a straight channel with devastating environmental consequences. Lin uses thousands of straight pins pushed directly into the gallery wall to map the river’s original meandering course through Central Florida to Lake Okeechobee. The dense multitude of pins illustrates the river’s complex winding shape. The open arrangement of the pins further suggests the river’s permeable banks that allow its overflow to nourish surrounding wetlands and support an abundance of Florida wildlife.
Three works in this exhibition, Waterline, Flow and 2x4 Landscape are room-sized sculptural installations that create dramatic physical and psychological encounters for the viewer. Waterline is an immersive three- dimensional drawing that visitors can enter and explore. The lines, made with thin aluminum elements suspended in the gallery, depict the contours of immense mountains that rise from the ocean floor in the remote south Atlantic. Flow and 2x4 Landscape are each made with thousands of 2x4 boards assembled with their cut ends up. The flat rectangular ends have the appearance of pixel-like data points that collectively become monumental physical forms. Flow represents a succession of waves that progressively rise and dissipate over a span of 35 feet. 2x4 Landscape is an immense 2,400 square foot mound that rises to a height of 10 feet and can be interpreted as a hill or wave.
Maya Lin creates compelling and beautiful works that reveal facets of the natural world we may not be thinking about. She says, “I believe that art, at times, can look at a subject differently and in doing so, can get people to pay closer attention.” Lin designed her multimedia collaborative project, What is Missing?, to bring awareness to the worldwide crisis of species extinction and loss of natural habitats. What is Missing? is an ongoing, cumulative project presented in different forms at different exhibition locations. An interactive feature of the project invites exhibition visitors to add personal stories about long term changes in the environment they personally witnessed. These stories become part of the project’s collective natural history. It is another way Maya Lin uses art to encourage people to experience and protect nature worldwide.
Caspian Sea (Bodies of Water series)
Disappearing Bodies of Water: Aral Sea
Disappearing Bodies of Water: Lake Chad