Friday, December 10, 2010

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Maya Ying Lin

All of these art pieces, with the exception of The Raft of Medusa, deal with the topic of war. This final piece in monument form, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, works to avoid commentary on the war exclusively and instead focus on those who served in it. In a way, it is the culmination of the points delivered through these many works of art.  When Maya Ying Lin designed the plan for this memorial, she was aware of the controversiality of the war it was remembering, but chose to concentrate instead on “the reality of war and...the people who gave their lives” (Kleiner, 1008).  Her use of the earth and its materials to create this monument lead one to see the possible proverbial arrows Lin laid to point to a “no-war” perspective.  The black granite that laces the edge of a deep cut into the earth summons up dark images. Lin says “I had an impulse to cut open the initial violence that in time would heal. The grass would grow back, but the cut would remain,” showing that the war itself was a deep scar that could never be completely healed (Kleiner, 1008). The monument’s walkway delivers the feeling of descent to its viewers, as they walk deeper into the slash in the earth and wall continues to grow taller and taller. It is overwhelming, the names of the dead and missing, but in this same monument, elements of positivity can be found. First, it is a place of remembrance, and the remembrance of heroes. It is cathartic and healing, a place of solace and honor. It evokes compassion and thought in its visitors and literally reflects the life that still walks the earth in the polished walls of stone. Lin successfully created “an interface between the world of the light and the quieter world beyond the names” (Kleiner, 1007).  This monument is not founded on the goal to “dictate response” but instead “encourages personal exploration” (Kleiner, 1007). 

A photograph showing how the memorial is like a gash in the ground


  1. this is one of the saddest memorials i have ever been to and i have been to a lot!

  2. I just wanted to thank you for posting this, even though I only came across it today ( 2 years after posting) it touches me deeply. My father is a Vietnam Veteran and although he doesn't talk that much about his time there with me, I sense the emotions, the fear and the hatred he still has contained in his heart.

    Recently I completed a vigorous treatment for hepatitis C and the first weekend of completing treatment my parents took me to Washington D.C. for the first time. On the Sunday morning that we were leaving, my father and I walked down to the Wall together around 6:30 a.m. The only other people there were the volunteers that clean it. My dad pulled out a sheet of paper from his pocket and handed it to me. It was a list of names and dates. These were friends of his that lost their lives in that war. My father explained Maya Ying Lin's design of the memorial - the first casualty meeting up with the last casualty and it just blew me away. Next we walked the length of that wall together pausing each time we came to one of the men on his list. Dad told me stories of each of them and I got to physically touch these courageous young men thanks to Lin's design. The experience is something I will never forget, it brought my father and I closer than ever and I even for just a moment got to feel war and what it can do to human beings. The reflection of my father's face in that wall as he told me these stories is what this memorial is all about.

    Thank you for the posting, it means more than you'll ever know.