“Forget Biden, drop HRC & Bernie. Maybe we need a Draft Gore for ’16 movement. Maya Lin’s enviro concerns inspired that impulse.”
BENTONVILLE, Arkansas — The above was my Facebook post from just after a lecture Monday night by artist-architect-environmentalist Maya Lin (the descriptives are hers). Mind you, Lin said absolutely nothing about politics nor former Vice President Al Gore.
My social media comment got one “like.”
Lin of course is best known for her Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which she designed as a contest entry in 1981 while still a student at Yale. With that as a first (in more ways than one), she’s had a tremendous career in sculpture, four other memorials and still the occasional design for a home or other building.
Our Crystal Bridges of American Art commissioned her for an artwork. “Silver Upper White River, 2015” will be unveiled soon on a wall of the North Gallery Bridge. It’s similar to her other water sculptures that follow topographical maps of the identified streams. She crafts them from silver — recycled silver, mind you — for three reasons: Water from a distance looks silvery, schools of fish can appear silver from above and silver’s a precious metal, she said during her program Oct. 19.
Other sculptures resemble the mountains that islands really are. Mount Everest isn’t the world’s tallest mountain, Hawaii is, Lin said in Bentonville.
As a reflection on her genre, this month the publisher Rizzoli released Lin’s book Topologies, an oversize, illustrated book with several co-authors including John McPhee and Dava Sobel. (It lists at $75 but is far less expensive online.)
A number of her three-dimensional works plowed the audience over, almost literally. She has redesigned fields to resemble waves. After a lot of bulldozing work then resodding, these lands have become green-bladed seas.
What she calls her last memorial is online, a collection of short videos from Lin and her friends and allies as well as contributed by regular folk — crowdsourced art. It is WhatIsMissing.net, about how humankind (she called the people of Earth “mankind”) is destroying the planet and its life forms.
Lin showed the large crowd in the museum’s Great Hall one of the videos, “Unchopping a Tree.” It’s below, just 3:14 long. Music is by Brian Eno.
Where does Albert Arnold Gore Jr. fit into an evening of remarkable contemporary design and art?
Maya Lin never drifted far from concerns about the environment, leading the audience, well me at least, to consider how convenient it is to forget.
Climate change could be a dominant issue this coming election year, but generally (not universally, though) the Republicans give it minimal and mocking attention. For the Democrats, global warming is one of the litany of major concerns: Education, health care, war, foreign policy, poverty, agriculture and, still going strong for 23 years, “The Economy, Stupid.”
The year was 1992, Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s first presidential campaign, and their campaign adviser James Carville posted “The Economy, Stupid,” on a board as a major theme.
Listening to the emphatic Maya Lin moved me to think, should the environment be the issue in 2016? Scientists and other experts say much damage to ourselves and the planet can be averted by acting sooner, far sooner, than later.
After leaving the vice presidency, Gore focused on climate change, in particular his 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, winner the following year of a Best Feature Documentary Oscar. Gore himself received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental leadership.
The Environment, Stupid.
It doesn’t flow off the tongue as a campaign slogan must, but after months of news about the California drought followed by days of news about the California floods, maybe the other big issues drop to second if the planet falters.
Al, a handful of commentators have written about you. Ezra Klein, at Vox.com, thoughtfully weighed your possible candidacy back in March. Should we take a peak at your website AlGore.com? Check the trailer of your 9-year-old doc? Are you waiting just off stage for a cue — or nowhere near the theater?