Maya Lin was a 21 year old senior at Yale when she won the design competition to design a monument in honor of the soldiers that served and died in the Vietnam War. When it was first erected in 1982, some people criticized it loudly, and many still do, maybe because it does what a war memorial actually should do: With its simple lines and the list of the names of our dead, it demands we honor sacrifice thoughtfully, reflect on the justifications and their costs, carry that knowledge forward into our future endeavors. It was exactly what we needed, then and now.
Since 1982, she's designed many other public works, including a Civil Rights monument in Montgomery incorporating smoothly flowing water which provides a visitor the opportunity to see how an action as small as touching a finger to the surface can alter the flow. Always, Lin creates objects which insist we reconsider our contemporary and historical surroundings, both in the physical and emotional sense. Lin could have had a perfectly uncontroversial career, but she chose to help us think about the world and our place in it. It's quite a thing.
And she's still alive and getting mail, so today send a postcard to Maya Lin. Thank her for doing the work that she didn't have to do to help us do the work that we must do.
Maya Lin Studio
112 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012