Celebrating Maya Ying Lin: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian Pacific American Heritage month is celebrated in May where we honor the histories of Americans from Asia and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia.

According to Torchinsky, the legislation designated May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month because of May 7th and May 10th.

May 7th, 1843 is when the first Japanese immigrants arrived to the U.S., and May 10th, 1869 recognizes the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, which heavily benefited Chinese workers, in the United States.

To celebrate, we are recognizing several Asian/Pacific American artists over the course of this month, honoring both them and their work and discussing how their work has influenced our country today.

Possibly the most influential of these artists is Maya Yin Ling.

Maya Yin Ling is an American architect and sculptor who resides in Athens, Ohio. Her style is very minimalist and post-minimalist as she explores Earth-related and environmental art.

Lin was born to Chinese parents who fled China in 1948 as the Communist takeover was beginning to take place. Her mother was a poet and a literature professor at Ohio University and her father was a ceramicist and the Dean of the School of Fine Art.

In 1977, Lin graduated as co-valedictorian of her high school and began studying architecture at Yale university. Her final year at university would be the kick-off of her artistic career as she entered a competition to design a Vietnam Veterans Memorial for Washington D.C. Her design was chosen amongst the other 1,400 entries. The jurors found that her design was both fascinating and simplistic, something that would hopefully not cause an uproar.

Vietnam Memorial Wall by Maya Lin

The memorial forms a V-shaped wall created using polished black granite panels of two 246-foot-long wings that begin at ground level at each end, gradually growing to a height of 10 feet at the V’s center. “Lin set the memorial into the landscape, enhancing visitors’ awareness of descent as they walk along the wall toward the center. The names of the Vietnam War’s 57,939 American casualties (and those missing in action) incised on the wings (in order of their deaths) contribute to the memorial’s dramatic effect” (Fred Kleiner). The dark, polished granite allows viewers to see themselves in the monument as they reflect

According to Lin, she “wanted to work with the land and not dominate it. [She] had an impulse to cut open the earth… an initial violence that in time would heal. The grass would grow back, but the cut would remain.”

The Wave Fields by Maya Lin

However, this was not Lin’s only work, or the last time she would work by changing the environment. In 1995, Lin created The Wave Field, an outdoor sculptural installation which focuses on the fluidity of water. She studied the dynamics of fluid, aerodynamics, and turbulence in order to achieve the outcome she was seeking, which was to mimic the forms of a naturally occurring wave. She did this by altering the earth and grass to get this effect.

“Lin continues to look at the environment as she progresses as an artist,” writes Laura Fiesel. “She creates important installations that use elements of the natural world, always focusing on landscape.” She continues to make art and installations that do not rival Earth’s natural beauty, but that work with it.


Fiesel, L. (n.d.). Maya Lin Biography, Life & Quotes. The Art Story. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.theartstory.org/artist/lin-maya/life-and-legacy/#nav

KLEINER, F. R. E. D. S. (2022). Gardner’s Art through the ages: A concise global history. CENGAGE LEARNING.

Torchinsky, R. (2022, May 2). The story behind Asian Pacific American Heritage, and why it’s celebrated in May. NPR. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2022/05/02/1095812576/aapi-asian-pacific-heritage-month-origin-may-why

Published by PrincessGroose

Fine Arts and ECM Major Creative Writing Minor Artist, Friend, Gamer, Island Wanderer, Shark Enthusiast. Protect Our Oceans.

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