Vietnam War Memorial, general view
Public art has a history which goes back to ancient times. Monuments to military achievement and heroes go back to ancient times, and Washington is replete with many such monuments. However, up until the 1980s, there was no monument to honor the men and women who had served in the Vietnam War (1960-1975). The public controversy caused about the legitimacy of the war resulted in a lack of recognition given to the veterans who returned from the war, or even to those who had died. In 1979 a group of veterans formed a non-for-profit group to raise funds for a memorial. In 1980 Congress authorized the site and announced a national design competition.
The competition was won by Maya Lin (born 1959), then a graduate student at Yale University. Lin is an architect-sculptor who often creates installations that become integrated with the environment. She envisioned the Vietnam War Memorial as a giant gash into a hill. The grass would grow back, but the black granite would remain like a scar that had healed but was always visible, a symbol for the pain caused by the war itself. Such large-scale environmental art had its origins in the installations and manipulations of nature which evolved in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The memorial lists the names of the sixty thousand service men and women who died or are missing in Southeast Asia. Although controversial at first, the Vietnam Memorial is now visited by thousands of people every day, and has become symbol of healing and reconciliation. One point of the chevron points towards the Washington Monument, while the other points to the Lincoln Memorial.
Artform: ARCHITECTURE, 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries
Artist: Lin, Maya
Artist Dates: born 1960, US
Country/Culture: United States
Period: 20th century
City/Location: WASHINGTON, DC
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