Water is both versatile and undisguised. Its magnitude is only made possible by its minute, microscopic makeup, and this equilibrium is what carries its message. It’s what makes water so precious, so fluid.
Maya Lin’s A Study of Water mimics these qualities in scale, subject, form, and material. Lin has previously erected public land sculptures from the earth’s materials, called “Wavefields,” that speak to the interconnectedness of natural systems. Through this new exhibition, she takes these motifs even further by focusing on the liquid’s melodious nature.
In fact, Lin’s works are their own kind of harmony. Several of her pieces are made with recycled silver, a precious and reflective natural material, as a counterpart to water that emphasizes its value. In “Flow,” she uses salvaged wood to mimic wave textures. The specific combinations of natural and rescued materials—each imbued with weighted meaning—create a chorus the same way that climate change (the root note), deforestation and over mining (the third), and an increase of water-based natural disasters (the fifth) creates a triad.
Lin’s practice is a swirl of decades of research, her architectural background, and poetic expression, and she speaks the language of nature and the human heart. Each piece is made to amplify the gravity of humanity’s environmental impact on this treasured resource and each other. For example, in “Marble Chesapeake & Delaware Bay,” the artist expands notions of connectedness by changing the perspective. The unification of the two waterways as marbles challenges us to think beyond the small, contained bites of our everyday interactions with the liquid and instead, see it as the celestial force that draws us to each other.
A Study of Water, which is on view at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, literally sits between the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay. These bodies are not only central points of Lin’s fascination with the subject, but they also provide a physical locale to ponder the unseen connections humanity often takes for granted. Her career is a bridge between architecture, art, and activism—expanding always like water but never too detached from its simultaneous nature.
For more of the artist’s works, visit her site.
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