This documentary was very moving! I was amazed to learn that Maya Lin’s design was picked from so many! It is amazing that a board of representatives chose her design from all others. A twenty year old student had a vision that was so moving. I’ve been to the memorial many times, and it has always brought me to tears. After viewing this documentary, I had the opportunity to go see it again. This time, it meant so much more to me having heard Lin’s explanations on how she conceptualized it.
Maya Lin had been viewed as a young woman who hadn’t served in the military, and as an Asian, the view became even more controversial.
Various groups in the American public came forward to publicly debate whether Lin’s work adequately or appropriately memorialized the US citizens who had lost their lives in what was the most disastrous and unpopular war in US history. Groups such as military veterans’ groups, politicians as well as average citizens were making this memorial a very politically charged issue.
The documentary shows Maya Lin very stoic, and stead-fast in her design. She was unwilling to redesign or give up on making this vision a reality. This speaks volumes of the type of woman Maya Lin is, even at such a young, tender age.
It was as if she knew that this memorial must be made, and that the public needed this type of emotionally charged outlook! The arguments against Lin’s design centered primarily on its form, and the simple manner the design presented the memorialization of the Vietnam vets. Some people were demanding statues. One particular representative argued that the blocks be a different color than black and that they be above ground. Some groups were arguing that by putting the memorial into the ground was like “burying” them, and not honoring them. Maya Lin’s presentation is based on the premise of both presence and absence.
Her design allows the viewer to be able to see themselves in the stone, while able to read the names of those who will never be physically represented again. It is a basic memorialization in presentation, but in emotion, it has a very powerful effect. At one point during the film, Lin said that she knew that the piece would make people cry, and that was the point. The rest of the documentary deals with Lin’s post-Vietnam Memorial career. Although her work portrayed in the film is very interesting, and important, it does lack the impact of the first sequence. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was such a monumental event in US history.
Before the memorial, the Vietnam War had been dealt with primarily in film, poetry, and fiction. Now, it was inscribed in America’s most historically documented site, the National Mall. For me, I think that this speaks volumes of the artist herself. The simplicity of the design rend so much emotion and charge, from a soft spoken 20 year old Yale student, who since then, had not strived for notoriety, but for her art to belong to everyone. She has used this representation again with the etched words, dates and names in the polished stone she created for the Civil Rights Memorial and Women’s Table at Yale.
In the film, she is portrayed as a humane artist, creating humane spaces for both the living and the dead. I am a veteran of two wars. I have served my country in both Afghanistan as well as Iraq. Of course, I have very personal ties to the feelings of misunderstanding and non-appreciation. Most veterans don’t ask for notoriety, a parade, or even a statue. What we do ask for is that our brothers and sisters that were not able to come home are memorialized and remembered properly. Not pomp and circumstance, but in subtle context. I appreciate the work of Maya Lin and think she represented that perfectly!