Maya Lin

Thinking about documentaries this week, I watched Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. Was it really twenty years ago that this film came out?

Who doesn’t love a story about a student who wins a contest that all the leaders in her field have entered? Of course it dwells on the controversy about the design of her Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which, thirty-some years later, obviously resulted from memorializing a controversial war after so few years. And there’s 21-year-old Maya Lin seeing this in the present tense, and articulating it like no one else around her could. I wasn’t surprised to see that her parents were both professors, her father the dean of Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts.

One detail, I found especially inspiring. You’d think that the sculptor-architect-memorialist thinks exclusively about space and sightlines. She says  that in making a memorial she writes in detailed prose what she is trying to achieve with the piece, before she even visits the site. The objective – the problem – first, then the abstraction, then the implementation. Writer-director Freida Lee Mock also went on to make Wrestling with Angels, the 2006 doc about Tony Kushner.

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