Honorary Geographer Maya Lin

When entertaining out of town visitors in the Bay Area you have a bounty of choices. Many years ago I took visitors to SFMOMA and stumbled into a Maya Lin exhibit. It blew my mind, and I've been a fan ever since. (I've even invited her to give a geolunch talk, but alas it has not happened.) At that time, I had no idea she was the the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which I found to be a sublime work of reverance. She makes art with strong clear forms that echo the earth. I think what she does resonates with me so much because the idea of spatial representation of geographic form is for me the heart of all we do in science, yet it allows for deep and immediate understanding of place. Whenever I see one of her pieces, I "get" it very quickly, and always feel a little bit happier. Art, what can you say. 

Maya Lin: SF Bay @ Brower CenterShe had a small installation recently in the Brower Center in Berkeley. It was lovely. I can't find it on her website, so you will have to trust this. I include one picture here at left.  It is a representation of the Bay, made in some kind of metal, mounted flush on the wall.  In the same show she had a model of the Sacramento River made from silver stick pins, also mounted on the wall - very fluid and playful with light. I use a slide of her model of the SF Bay shown here as an into into my lectures on modeling (also a shot of the weird and wonderful SF Bay model in Sausalito, more about that anon). 
Her most recent work at the Smithsonian's newly renovated Renwick Gallery uses green marbles to model the Chesapeake Bay. It is a stunning piece, I wish I could be there. I read about the work here.  
Maya Lin: Chesapeake Bay, Smithsonian
Her description of a recent (2008) installation at the California Academy of Sciences in SF "Where the Land Meets the Sea" says: "By using science and technology in her artwork to create new ways of looking at the environment, Maya Lin's work inspires viewers to pay closer attention to the natural world." I think that is true, but it is also true that it is pleasing because it is so apart from the natural world and yet so resonant with it. If that makes any sense. The work is below:
Maya Lin's Where the Land Meets the Sea at Cal Academy in 2008
In that piece (picture above) modeling the shape of the SF Bay, the terrain (or bathymetry) is based on data supplied by the U.S. Geological Survey, among others, and represents a 1:700 scale with a vertical exaggeration of 5 times above sea level and 10 times below. Sea level is 18 feet above the terrace.
Looking forward to seeing more of her work, in person if possible.