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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Unchop a Tree - Maya Lin and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Maya Lin
What does a 21-year old artist, whose major work was described as "a black gash of shame" but is seen by an average of 10,000 people each day – more than three million a year - with an attitude of reverence, have to do with the fight against global warming? And what movie inspired the man who set this train of events in motion?

Unchopping trees

Meet Maya Lin, who was born in 1959, read for her Master of Architecture degree at Yale University, has been awarded honorary doctors degrees by both Yale and Harvard, and while still an undergraduate beat out 1,420 competing submissions to win the mandate for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
Maya Lin has struck a triumphant blow in the fight to prevent deforestration, by asking one simple question, and providing a moving video answer to that same question. She said:
We can't unchop a tree. But we can not chop it down in the first place. Or we can plant a new tree.
The video – What is Missing? - takes three minutes to show several wonderful places in many cities which are thickly forested, and to explain just how many minutes it would take to chop all those trees down at the rate that trees today are being chopped down all over the world.
Vietnam Veteran Memorial
Watch her video here, and check her own website here for other works she has done, and recommend these to people you know who might enjoy their striking beauty, and awesome effectiveness.
If we are to save the earth from rising temperatures, we need to harness artists who can create this type of compelling and vivid message.

Black granite in memorial

Maya's aim with her Vietnam Veterans Memorial was a black granite stone wall with the names of 58,261 soldiers on it. Wikipedia puts it this way:
Lin's conception was to create an opening or a wound in the earth to symbolize the gravity of the loss of the soldiers.
Completed in 1982, the two simple but graceful walls designed by Maya are 247-feet long, sunk into the earth, and meet at a 125-degree angle. The names of the soldiers lost in battle convey a poignant sense of loss, with each name carved into the granite – like hieroglyphics on a modern oblisk - at just over half and inch high.
The names are arranged according to the year of death or disappearance, causing visitors who do not know the precise date to wander down the walls until they find the right spot. When they do, most reach out to trace the letters with a finger, their own faces reflected in the bright granite surface.

The Deer Hunter

In 1979 a veteran named Jan Scruggs watched The Deer Hunter, starring Robert de Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep. When he left the theater he decided that Vietnam veterands needed a memorial, and set about raising money for it. Not a cent was paid by the government.
Click here to read why Jan Scruggs thinks The Wall has the same come-back quality about it that the Pyramids and Eiffel Tower have.
And click here to read the fascinating details of the troubled history of the making of The Deer Hunter (including the fighting over the writing of the screenplay, how the six principal male actors carried a photo in their back pockets to enhance their togetherness while shooting the movie, and De Niro's insistence tha the revolver used in the famous Russian roulette scene had one live bullet in it, to heighten the intensity).

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