The Artful Traveler: Maya Lin at Storm King
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.