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The Artful Traveler: Maya Lin at Storm King

Reviewed by Bobbie Leigh


Maya Lin's  waves don't lap at the shore. They are mid- ocean waves, just seven of them, set in a  greener than green  11-acre site  at the Storm King Art Center, an hour  north of  Manhattan.  Lin's  Storm King  earthworks project is the third and final one of her  series of  Wavefield sculptures.  Lin, who catapulted to fame at 21 with the Vietnam War Memorial,  is an architect with a profound interest in  the earth's surface and a poet who can translate that interest into  a sculpture deserving our attention and admiration.



    Lin's Storm King Wavefield officially open  May 9, but a group of writers had the chance to see them in their infancy last fall.  This observer was underwhelmed.  The setting was magical, ideal for an earth sculpture,  but anyone  expecting something as exotic as   Robert Smithson's  "Spiral Jetty"  was bound to be disappointed. But that was then,  before  the waves  had achieved their potential.  Today  in what was once a gravel pit,  Lin  has created a sculpture  she says "blurs the distinction between viewer and artwork  and artwork and nature." 
    This ambitious artwork consists of   seven rows,  each more than 300 feet long, of undulating hills that  are a dead ringer for  ocean waves. They vary in height between  ten and 15 feet  at their crest.  These  are  walking waves. At  their summits you have endless vistas of  trees, meadows woodlands, and mountains. The waves closest "neighbor" is  Andy  Goldsworthy's   sculpture  "Storm King Wall,"  (2,278 feet  long). Like Lin's work,  it was also commissioned by the Storm King Art Center.   It too blends  into the landscape as it  snakes through  woods,  plunges into a pond,  climbs up the other side,  and continues to  a fence at  Storm King's perimeter.
    "We have a long history of  moving earth, creating paths and platforms for our sculptures," says David Collens Director and Curator, adding that "Lin has created a magnificent addition to the Art Center's collection of post-war sculpture, one that establishes an engaging dialogue with other works." 
    Lin's waves are the result of endless study of fluid dynamics,  serious research about mid-ocean wave formation and measurement, and various  architectural drawings and models.  They were created from material,  gravel and earth  already in place  to which were added topsoil and a variety of grasses. Gravel created  the structure while  the tall grasses  secure the gentle, undulating shape of the rolling waves. Walking through and up and down the wavefield is a must — in fact the only way to experience the  confluence of  art and nature which is at the heart of Lin's earthworks.  

Storm King Art Center

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