Happy Birthday to Maya Lin!
Architect/Sculptor Maya Lin 2004 photo ©: Anders Norrsell
I suppose that the Culture Wars are part of our human DNA but my heart still breaks a little when I remember the saga of Maya Lin's Vietnam War Veteran's Memorial. The protagonists in these culture conflicts strive for an antagonistic stasis because destruction of one or the other would force either party to make real contributions to humanity or risk complete nullification. As a result we have two Vietnam Memorials: Lin's searing and soothing name-encrusted wall and the bravely heroic nearby bronze "Three Servicemen Statue" by Frederick Hart. (There's also an additional statuary grouping: "The Vietnam Women's Memorial").
I like the fact that Lin's work was emotionally large and supportive enough to accommodate opposing aesthetic solutions. In the process, a near perfect memorial was achieved. It's awkward but it doesn't paper over the differences the nation still feels about the war and it's rationale or sacrifices. Her sculpture may not convince hawks that war is bad, but no one can come away without an appreciation of the preciousness of Life.
The other culture war idea I have is that in 1981 when Maya Lin reluctantly shot to fame, we were unaccustomed as a nation to hear the voice of an articulate, young, Asian American, female voice. Today, there is so much celebrity and blurring of faces, voices, and motivations that we've become deaf to the truth being spoken in the civic world. Maya Lin has that constant and truthful artistic voice that the best, real artists possess.