If we can’t face death, we’ll never overcome it. You have to look it straight in the eye. Then you can turn around and walk back out into the light.
~ Maya Lin, on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Nick’s great-aunt, Freida Lee Mock, is an Academy Award-Winning documentarian. For a documentary-lover, you can imagine how insanely awesome that is to me. You can also imagine what a loser I am for waiting this long to watch Auntie Frieda’s most critically-acclaimed work. A few years ago, we had the absolute pleasure of watching her documentary, “Sing China!” when Auntie Frieda came to SF for the premiere, but we still hadn’t watched “Maya Lin” until today.
Here’s the trailer:
I should reiterate that the full film title is “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision”, because that really is the heart of this documentary. At age 21, Yale architecture student Maya Lin was thrust into the public eye when her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. was chosen from over 1,500 entries. Her stark, modern concept of a v-shaped, black granite wall set into the ground with white etched names of the fallen was chosen unanimously by a panel serving the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, but it faced strong opposition by a small, yet very vocal group of Vietnam vets who thought her design was an insult, and also did not like the fact that it was created by an Asian.
It was very interesting to see how groundbreaking Maya Lin’s “strong clear vision” was for this memorial. Some of the designs submitted included a sculpture of a soldier’s boots, a huge bell, and an enormous American flag – these were at the time the “typical” ideas of what a memorial was supposed to be. “The Wall”, as it’s now nicknamed, was something totally new and different. People tried to find a compromise by adding to or changing parts of the design – but Maya stood firm in her position on how the piece was created and how changes or additions would completely undermine the vision she had for it.
The documentary also follows other works of Maya Lin, such as the Civil Rights Monument in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Women’s Table at Yale University, where she earned her Bachelors of Arts and Masters of Architecture degrees, and was awarded with an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts (she has also been awarded honorary Doctorates at Harvard University, Williams College, and Smith College). Dr. Lin continues to design and create art in varying projects. In each piece, you can see the intensity, the emotion, and that strong, clear vision that drive her work. Her creations are powerful, clean, simple, and beautiful. I highly recommend watching this film if you have any interest in design, architecture, or art. Thank you, Auntie Freida, for bringing the stories of this incredibly talented woman to the screen.