Audubon Women in Conservation 2011: Maya Lin

Audubon Women in Conservation 2011: Maya Lin

Julie Leibach
Published: 06/20/2011

Maya Lin made an enduring contribution to history at age 21 when, as a student at Yale’s School of Architecture in 1981, she submitted a design proposal for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—and won. Since then, she’s produced an array of other memorials, architectural designs, and art. Upon viewing her work, it’s hard to miss signs of what inspires her: nature, and particularly landscapes. “I’ve tried to get people—especially in my art—to look at the natural world in a way they might not be thinking about, whether it’s through sonar mapping of the ocean floor or looking at a river as an entire system," Lin told me in a recent interview. "I’m doing it partly as an artist in that I am extremely interested in exploring aspects of the natural world revealed by technology, but I’m also committed as an advocate.” This past May, Lin received Audubon’s Rachel Carson Award at its annual Women in Conservation luncheon for her leadership. (Actor Sigourney Weaver was another recipient; see her interview here.)

Fittingly, Lin’s fifth and last memorial is designed to stir audience’s environmental consciousness. Called What Is Missing?, the project “is focused on raising awareness about species loss and connecting it to habitat loss,” says Lin. But it will also convey what experts are doing to help, not to mention what we can tackle in our day-to-day life. “It’s both a wake-up call and a call to action,” says Lin.

A multi-sited memorial, pieces of What Is Missing will be installed in various locales—the first at the California Academy of Sciences—and include one-to-two-minute films about various organisms. The installations will be linked to a nexus site—indeed, a website called whatismissing.net. The site entails an interactive map showing species' status around the world and will eventually reveal measures other people are taking toward a greener future. “Let’s re-imagine how the world could look,” says Lin.  She’s already well underway.