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If you like Maya Lin's story, you might also like:
J. Carter Brown,
Dale Chihuly,
Frank Gehry,
Philip Johnson,
James Rosenquist,
Fritz Scholder,
Vincent Scully,
Amy Tan and
Wayne Thiebaud

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Maya Lin in the Achievement Curriculum section:
A Passion For Music
Meet the Architects

Related Links:
Maya Lin Studio

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Maya Lin Interview (page: 8 / 8)

Artist and Architect

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What do you say to young men and women who might come to you and ask, "How can I do what you do? How can I become an artist?"

Maya Lin: You have to work very hard. I don't know how many days and nights I've spent. I think you have to be forever questioning what you're up to. I think you have to have conviction and at times completely question everything and anything you do. I think you have to understand that no matter how much you study, no matter how much you know, the side of your brain that has the smarts won't necessarily help you in making art. That's a frightening notion. Nothing you learn will help you in being creative. In fact, at times it could hurt you if you think too hard. Sometimes you have to stop thinking. Sometimes you shut down completely. Every time you do that, you're afraid you'll never start up again. I think that's true in any creative field. Nothing is ever guaranteed. Nothing is ever a sure thing and all that came before doesn't predicate what you might do next.

Looking ahead at the 21st Century, what do you see as the greatest challenges we face as a society?

Maya Lin: How we are using up our home, how we are living and polluting the planet is frightening. It was evident when I was a child. It's more evident now. I think we have had a bad habit, as a species, of thinking of ourselves in our separate little pods. And those pods went from being the village, to being the country, to being -- you know. And now we have to think in terms of environmental solutions, in terms of a global outlook. If we're going to be making pesticides illegal in this country, but then shipping those same chemicals down to other countries because they don't have as strict an environmental law, that is a crime. That's got to stop. We have to take responsibility and we have to start solving these problems on a global outlook. And yet we have no mechanisms to govern on an international level really. That is what is going to be key.

I completely believe in what's happening with the greenhouse effect and with the ozone layer. Only x percentage of the population are contributing to those pollutants. What happens when the rest of the world modernizes? Can we learn from our mistakes before we make them in another country? Does one country have a right to say that to another country? I think in the next 10, 20 years, if we don't have a much stronger concern for the environment on a very political level, we're in trouble. We are in trouble. Yet everyone focuses on the economy or individual prosperity. We have to figure out how we can deal with this.

What does the American Dream mean to you?

Maya Lin: To me the American Dream is probably being able to follow your own personal calling. And to be able to do what you want to do is an incredible freedom that we have. It provides for opportunities that you don't get in that many other countries. I think the American Dream also represents that we have a responsibility to share it, and to not just sort of hoard that freedom, but hopefully share that freedom with other countries and with people within our own country that don't have that freedom.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

Does the artist have a responsibility to society?

Maya Lin: Artists have responsibility to themselves as individuals. It goes back to diversity and variety. Some artists might want their work to be socially focused. Other artists won't. You need both; otherwise you kill art and we all lose out.

Thank you very much.

Maya Lin: You're welcome.

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This page last revised on Sep 22, 2010 10:38 EDT
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