A face to remember

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A Face to Remember

"One of the rare few who have managed to forge a path in both art and architecture, Maya Lin is at once sculptor, architect, designer, craftsman, and thinker," says art critic Michael Brenson. Maya Lin an American Chinese, was born in 1959 in Athens, Ohio.  Athens is a manufacturing and agricultural town that had a population of 15,000 people and consisted of predominantly Caucasian people. Lin was not brought up as a traditional Chinese.  The typical Chinese parent is very conservative and rational.  Most Chinese immigrant parents aspire for their kids to strive to become the top and become successful.  In terms of successful, they are referring to being financially stable with a steady job.  For Lin, her parents didn’t fit into this category.  Her parents fled from China just before the Communist Revolution of 1949 and came to America. Lin's mother, Julia Chang Lin, a poet, was a literature professor at the University of Ohio. Her late father, Henry Huan Lin, was a ceramicist (a person with expertise in ceramics) and a dean of Fine Arts. (Harris)  Therefore, their whole family opposed of the perspective of a traditional Chinese.  In addition immigrant parents, who have children that are second generation, always have their kids learn Chinese to communicate with their parents. (Harris)  Nevertheless, Lin’s parents chose not to teach her and her brother Chinese. Her parents felt that they’d be better off if they didn’t have the complication of having to learn and comprehend both languages.  Moreover, tradition Chinese parents, most of the time; favor the males more than the females.  “I was lucky as a girl to never ever be thought of as any less than my brother. The only thing that mattered was what you were to do in life, and it wasn't about money. It was about teaching, or learning.” Lin states.  (Google)

During her childhood Maya Lin found it easy to keep herself entertained, whether by reading or by building miniature towns. Lin loved attending school.  From an early age she excelled in mathematics, loved logic, computer programming, and animals. While attending a public high school, Lin took college level courses while working at McDonalds. Lin considers herself a typical mid-westerner in which she grew up with little knowledge of her oriental identity.   She never took any extracurricular activities and admits to being somewhat nerdy, since she didn't date or wear make-up.  She found her joy through constantly thinking and solving problems.  She had very few friends in school and felt that American adolescence was a lot wilder than I would have felt comfortable with.  She always ate dinner with her parents and never wanted to go out.  Since she didn’t have many friends to play with, she became a person in her own world. (Maya Lin Interview)

After graduating from high school, Lin enrolled at Yale and considered on majoring in zoology and becoming a veterinarian but was dispassionate of the thought of vivisection.  As a result she figured that architecture was a perfect combination of the things she loved; art, math, and science.  (Maya Lin Interview) Lin received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture in 1981 and a Master of Architecture degree in 1986. It was during the fall of 1980 her senior year at Yale that Lin and 5 other students were to do their course work on funereal architecture.  During this time, a man named Jan Scruggs and a couple other Vietnam Veterans started a fund called the VVMF (Vietnam Veteran Memorial Foundation) that pushed the act on congress to have president Carter sign the legislation to have a memorial for the Vietnam Veterans in Washington D.C.  These veterans had no idea about architecture; thus, they hired a jury of top design professionals that consisted of two architectures, two landscapers, two people who sculpt, and a humanist to help decide the winner of the competition.  Meanwhile, one of her peers came upon an advertisement that advertised the competition for the best memorial display that portrayed Vietnam Veterans.  The competition was open to all Americans, not just professional architects.  After having the influence of her design through Edwin Lutyens' Memorial to the Missing of the Somme Offensive, at Thiepval, France, her concept of the Vietnam Memorial came to life. Lin entered the national competition joining 1441 other entries.  On the last day of class, Lin’s roommate, Liz Perry, went to retrieve Lin to tell her about a call from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and that they wanted to fly up to New Haven and ask her a few questions.  Three officers of the fund came to New Haven and announced in her dormitory that she had won the competition. (Lin, Maya Y.)

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Her design was constructed in a low V-shaped black granite wall partially submerged in the manner of ancient burial sites; the names of all 57,661 who died or went missing are inscribed on it. (Hackett)  The reflective surface of the granite means that those who view it and read the roll-call of names become immediate participants in the experience of remembering the dead. Names of servicemen and women are recorded in chronological order in which they perished, from 1959-1975, giving the memorial a sense of real time in history and for other veterans to view their time within the section. ...

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