Maya Lin: A History of Water

Maya lin oma 2x4 (web)

December 3, 2014

Orlando, FL - - 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.

This exhibition is organized by the Orlando Museum of Art.

Artist’s Talk

January 29, 2015  /  7pm

Maya Lin’s talk is presented by the Orlando Museum of Art and the Rollins Winter Park Institute. Learn more at and

Artist Biography

Maya Lin (born 1959, Athens, Ohio) has maintained a careful balance between art and architectural design throughout her career, creating a remarkable body of work that includes large-scale site-specific installations, studio artworks, architectural projects and memorials. Lin graduated cum laude from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1981 and a Master of Architecture degree in 1986.

Lin has been drawn to the critical social and historical issues of our time and addressed them in her memorials including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.; the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala.; and the Women’s Table at Yale University, New Haven, Conn. Currently she is working on the Confluence Project, a multi-sited installation spanning the Columbia River system in the Pacific Northwest that intertwines the history of Lewis and Clark with the history of the Native American tribes who inhabit those regions.  Her architectural projects include the new master plan and main building for Novartis Cambridge Campus, Mass.; the Museum for Chinese in America, New York, N.Y.; the Riggio-Lynch Chapel and Langston Hughes Library facilities for the Children’s Defense Fund, Clinton, Tenn.; and a private residence in Colorado that was honored as one of Architectural Record’s Record Houses in 2006. Her designs create a close dialogue between the landscape and built environments, and she is committed to advocating sustainable design solutions in all her works.

Lin’s studio artwork has been the subject of solo exhibitions at museums worldwide including the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; the American Academy in Rome, Italy; the Wanås Foundation, Kinslinge, Sweden; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Penn.; and the Arts Club of Chicago, Ill. A major touring exhibition, Systematic Landscapes, was presented at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, Wash.; the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, Mo.; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Calif.; the de Young Museum, San Francisco, Calif.; and the Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, D.C. She has created permanent outdoor installations for public and private collections including the California Academy of Science, San Francisco (San Francisco Arts Commission for the Civic Art Collection, Calif.); the Wanås Foundation; the Wexner Center for the Arts; Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, N.Y.; and her largest earthwork to date, Fold in the Field, is at Gibbs Farm, Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand.

She is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards including the Presidential Design Award, the Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture, a National Endowment for the Arts artists’ award, the William A. Bernoudy Resident in Architecture fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, the Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an American Institute of Architects Honor Award and the Finn Juhl Prize. In 2009, Lin was awarded the National Medal of Art by President Barack Obama and in October of 2014, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. She has also received honorary doctorates from Yale and Harvard Universities and Smith College among others.

She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2005 was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She has been profiled in magazines such as Time Magazine, The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker. In 1996, a documentary about her work, Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Lin lives in New York City with her husband and their two children. She is represented by the Pace Gallery.


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