"Boundaries" by Sheldon Smith. A graphic portraying the philosophy and ideas of artist /author Maya Lin.

       The opposing sides in my graphic are not different but each side is a warped version of the original. Each side had the same origin and soon later was pushed apart. Maya Lin sits on the boundary above which has dimensionality and while looking at the two sides, she would deem them opposites. But they are not opposites nor are they different. They are only one idea that man has yet to imagine. They should be seen together as one first, and then understood as true second. No one side is right and by taking one side one is doing an injustice to his/herself. Maya Lin understands this concept which is why she is all about the harmony between two sides. Lin is not about contradictions, she is about reflecting on relationships and that is what this graphic displays. The plant is transparent allowing one to see through and reflect on the Japanese architecture. Everything in the world can affect each other. The same goes for the elements in this graphic. Though the elements are clearly different, their colors and tones blend in perfectly. The graphic shows the boundary we exist on as another dimension and though fine and seemingly brittle, its effect on the two opposing sides is prominent.


       The graphic focuses on what Maya Lin’s final memorial will be. It’s a memorial to plants and ecology. Most people overlook this idea and immediately focus on her Vietnam Memorial design. The book “Boundaries” is dedicated to Lin’s father who inspired her to further continue her work with nature and man. Upon visiting his Japanese style home in China, it seemed to her that what she is about was innate all along. The graphic touches on this by showing the relationship between nature and man. One can see through the plant that blends in with the architecture.

       The only way to to build a successful memorial is to embrace the idea that man effects his environment and his environment effects him. This harmony between man and the world should not be overlooked or else a valuable lesson is lost. A memorial is not built to impose an idea into the human brain. This such structure is known and defined as a monument. A memorial promotes reflection on the world and man's position in it. It allows for the viewer to see his/ her self in the event. A memorial calls for non-political controversy. Politics are not rested in the hearts of men but love of oneself, one's family, and one's environment is present there. Maya Lin understands what political controversy can do to a memorial which is why she stresses a harmonious design. Although Lin embraces harmony, she is not a Zen-like person, rather, she is engulfed in anxiety. This contradiction is what allows her to understand what a successful memorial is. Maya Lin's book "Boundaries" is not about science and art, art and architecture, or East and West. It's about the line that the divides the two sides. This line takes on a dimensionality that we all should exist on. We should be able to see both sides clear from above and not judge them, but understand the harmony between the two sides. On this line we can reflect on an event from both perspectives and understand what is happening between us and the world. That line is where Maya Lin strives to lift us when she designs a memorial.

      When one cannot specify on a position they are on between two opposites, it is sometimes defined as that person contradicting his/herself. But if one's purpose of staying in the middle is to review the opposing sides and understand them by relating them, then it is not a contradiction. In Craig Marine's review of "Boundaries" he uses the contradictions he finds Lin to be about to describe her persona while writing the book.

     Maya Lin’s “Boundaries” is a representation of the contradictions Lin feels her life exists on. “Maya Lin is a study of contradictions” (Marine 1). Lin was always skeptical about her venture into literature because she deemed it to have a negative effect on her audience and those who would classify her as an artist, not a writer. But Lin’s fears were lost after watching the Award – winning 1995 film, “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision” by Frieda Mock. She then realized that her life story was always told through other people’s minds and she now wanted people to see her through her own eyes. Although, Lin’s most famous work is the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial, she attempts to side step that event in "Boundaries". She wants people to realize that she is much more than her first memorial feat. Lin’s anxious persona doesn’t keep her from worrying about the book though, and she describes it as the scariest thing she’s ever put out in her life. In the end the book is a great success and Lin’s anxiety is somewhat relieved (1–4).

                                                                             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 the opposing forces, finding the place where opposites                                                                             meet. Water out of stone, glass that flows like water, the fluidity of a rock,                                                                             stopping time – existing not on either side but on the line that divides. And                                                                             that line takes on a dimensionality; it takes a sense of place and shape.
                                                                            (Lin qtd. In Marine 1)

      Though one can always consider the opposites of an idea or issue, one should never sit on one side to reflect on it.Brian Lamb interviews Maya Lin for C-SPAN's Booktalk and Lin to explain what she means by the word boundaries in her own words.. In the interview Lin explains her inspirations and the events that propelled her to the place that she is now. She also discusses what her final memorial will be.

     Maya Lin's "Boundaries" is more about the dimensionality of the line that divides than about the two sides opposite of the boundary. Art and science go hand in hand in all of Lin's work.  I use science a lot in my work. It's between art and science(Lin qtd. in Lamb 1). She sees her memorials taking on a line between art and architecture. While combining art and science Lin is always careful to leave out the science of politics as this reverses the effect of her memorials meaning and can quite often change the memorial into a monument. Examples of Lin's careful boundary style measures can be seen in her most well-known work, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. She envisions this memorial to be a park rather than a politic statement in the form of a statue. Lin has learned from her family's efforts as her aunt and uncle helped design Tiananmen Square whichi had tremendous political controversy attached to it. She feels that people should reflect and not have an idea or view imposed on them, rather, they should be able to make their own interpretations. "Boundaries" is dedicated to Lin's father who impacted who she is today in ways that she never knew. Upon visiting his home in China she realized that all she is and all she works to be rested in her father's Japanese style home. Lin's final memorial will be one to the plant life and ecology of the world (Lamb 1-40).




Book Cover: "Boundaries" by Maya Lin

       In the previous picture of the cover of the book "Boundaries", Lin is stating that two opposite elements can be joined as one. The delicacy of a hand's texture and the ruffness of a rock are almost always considered opposites, smooth and course, but Lin manages to show that outside of all that complexity, which is the black background, there is a simply relationship between the two objects and they seem to even blend into each other. Their origin is the same and there outcome will be fused allowing one to step outside onto the boundary between the two objects and see them as complements to each other.

Marine, Craig. “War memorial designer switches medium to tell life story, in her new book
     ‘Boundaries’.” The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco: October 25, 2000.

Lamb, Brian. "Boundaries by Maya Lin". C-SPAN's Booktalk. 19 Nov. 2000.
     <http://www.booknotes.org/Transcript/?ProgramID=1589>.


Sheldon Smith