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Maya Lin working in her studio

Maya Lin working on Eclipsed Time [detail]  / Adam Stoltman (born 1960) / Reproduction of photograph from c. 1993–94 / Courtesy of Adam Stoltman

One Life: Maya Lin

September 30, 2022 - April 16, 2023

I feel I exist on the boundaries, somewhere between science and art, art and architecture, public and private, East and West. I am always trying to find a balance between these opposing forces, the place where opposites meet. —Maya Ying Lin

Born to Chinese immigrant parents in 1959, Maya Lin grew up amidst the streams, woods, sandstone cliffs, carpets of moss, and wildlife of rural Ohio. “Looking back, I realize I led a very insulated and isolated childhood,” she recalls. Her mother and father were professors, and she credits them with cultivating her creativity and intellectual curiosity. For Lin, “Each project becomes a way for me to learn about a new field, whether it is aerospace engineering, the study of light, or the history of civil rights.”

In 1981, after her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was selected from 1,421 entries, Lin was unwittingly thrust into the limelight. Four decades later, she remains one of the most influential artists and architects of our time. Best known for her large-scale, site-specific installations, architectural works, and memorials, Lin also creates intimate studio artworks. The common thread, she notes, is “the love and respect I have for the natural world.”


One Life: Maya Lin has been made possible by The Guenther and Siewchin Yong Sommer Endowment Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies. This project received Federal support from the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

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Video: Maya Lin, In Her Own Words
Watch the National Portrait Gallery’s special interview with Maya Lin.

Video: What Is Missing?
This video is part of Maya Lin's multimedia, multi-site memorial to the environment.

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