For years, I’ve admired the work of Maya Lin, the woman who designed the Vietnam Memorial. So much so that I bought a book called Boundaries filled with examples of her work, including “Reading A Garden:”
In her proposal for “Reading a Garden” for the Cleveland Public Library, Lin collaborates with her brother, Tan Lin, an abstract language poet:
“In my work, I have often combined text with sculptural forms, but I have always wanted the integration between sculpture and text to be less a surface applied event than one in which the words and their meaning correspond to the space and one’s movement through it…The sculpture will focus on the idea of reading. As you walk through the garden, words will be placed that will allow for a “reading” of the space.
Words will follow your path through the garden, on the walkways, benches, and walls. Yet unlike a book, the way in which you read the poem is multidirectional.”
Later in her proposal, she explains her purpose. She wants to answer the question: “What happens when sculpture and words can help to shape each other’s meaning–so that words become descriptive of the spaces they inhabit and the spaces are somewhat shaped by the choice of words?”
I think the answer is—magic happens. Watch the falling water as “a child falls asleep…”
For more photos, take a look at: CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY EASTMAN READING GARDEN
But it is the “word map” of the garden that I find particularly intriguing, the language structure provided by her brother.
You must find your own copy of the book to appreciate this poem that became a physical thing. Or wander through the library’s garden the next time you’re in Cleveland. LAND Studio’s Website shows current projects installed at the garden.
And closer to home, I’ve been finding language sculptures in unexpected places:
The entrance to the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium in San Francisco is a testament to materials and how they’re used, a great place to take kids for a little tactile play.
Just down the street from Dogpatch, near the entrance to the UCSF Orthopaedic Institute in San Francisco, sits a word person, clasping knees to chest. I’m thinking it’s a commentary on all the “text” that now “overflows” our lives. Soon we will become nothing but piles of letters, scattered thoughts. OR, it could be a commentary on how words define humanity. You be the interpreter.
My question: Have you run into language in unexpected places in your local landscape?
Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing more of Maya Lin’s exquisite work, take a look at her tonal Website.
Here’s a link to a temporary installation called “Winged Wisdom” from 2010 located in the Presidio, another corner of San Francisco.
18 thoughts on “Finding Words in Unusual Places”
I love artists who can pull things like this together — true talent. I would love to see these sculptures in person, but I will have to settle for images closer to home. I do live in an “artsy” area, but I haven’t run into anything so provocative as what you talk about here.
Maybe you should go “in search of” and see what you find. Or maybe you and your family could create an installation somewhere outside, along a path, written with stones, woven vines or plants. Just a thought…Take a look at this installation that was in the Presidio in San Francisco a few years ago. It’s called “Winged Wisdom.”
Some interesting stuff on her website. I particularly like the landscape art – the Storm King Wavefield would be one I’d like to visit. I love the word person, and I’m going to go with your second interpretation – language has always seemed more important to me than opposable thumbs in evolutionary terms. 🙂
Storm King is on our list of “to sees.” My in-laws live a stone’s throw away from there in upstate New York, but we never visit them at their home. We always see them in other places. One of these days…
Yes, opposable thumbs help us text faster, but I think linguists would agree with you about the second interpretation.
Love that idea. Thanks for posting about this. I’m only a 30-minute drive from Cleveland, and this would be lovely to check out. Now, if I can just convince my husband and kids to go with me…
Oh, please go–even if you have to go by yourself. Maybe if you show them some of the photos from the Cleveland Library website, they’ll be intrigued. Let me know if you’re successful.
I will, thank you. And if I tempt them with a stop at one of their favorite Cleveland restaurants, I think that will seal the deal. 🙂
Cleveland is now on my list of places to visit because of you. This park and book look so beautiful. I love the idea of words and sculpture defining space. Not so much for my own garden but in a public space, to make one stop, take the time to take in one’s surroundings. There was a temporary word sculpture outside our local library that read “listen”. I noticed that people would always slow down when walking by it (or was that my imagination?).
I will be buying this book – thank you for bringing it to my attention, Jilanne.
Oh, I love it! “Listen” Yes, taking a moment to pause and consider one’s surroundings instead of bustling through every minute of the day unawares. And I’m pleased that you will be taking a longer look at her work. She is such a talented artist.
Thanks again for the Tweet!
I forgot to mention that Cleveland appears to have come a long way since the 1969 river fire. 😮
Rising like a phoenix it seems…
Fantastic. And you give me yet another reason to visit SF.
The first reason being to engage my son in comic book drawing contest?
That should go wtihout saying.
I love the Overflow one and your interpretation of it is perfect. I’m familiar with those very scattered thoughts. Hopefully somehow all those scattered thoughts will make up a coherent person. I haven’t noticed art like that around here but now I’ll be on the lookout for it!
If you find something, take a pic and post it on your blog. I’d love to see it!
Reblogged this on In the Castle of My Mind and commented:
Great insight about place…