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River Rail

A River is a Drawing...

Maya Lin, Depot River, 2008, Systematic Landscapes, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Photo: Pablo Mason.

So much of my work focuses on Water.

Rivers, Ice floes, Glaciers, the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps, sonar views of the ocean floor, to simple water waves, frozen in time by a photograph.

Rivers are something we tend to see at the place we know.

Rarely do we think of a river as an ecological living system—which it is.

Instead—being visual—we see our place along a river. 

We rarely consider what is downstream from us, and only if someone is polluting upstream do we wonder what is going on upstream from us.

The recycled silver rivers are both precious—deliberately so—and filled with light.

The first European settlers to the new world, astounded by the abundance of the silvery fish swimming in immense multitudes in the rivers, referred to the rivers as “Running Silver.” My choice of recycled silver stems partially from that and partially just to capture the entirety of a river—as a visually coherent singularity—and emphasize how beautiful and precious these waterways are.

They are also drawings—found in nature.

I travel the world in maps and atlases and satellite views of the earth’s terrain.

I also explore the topography below the ocean’s surface—revealing the world out of sight.

And in the series that focuses on the drastic changes we are witnessing with climate change, capturing moments in time, like the rapid loss of ice in the Arctic and Antarctic or the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy.

I like to ground the viewer in what is literally right below their feet or out their front door.

Whether it is the Chesapeake Bay for the Renwick in D.C. or for Mana Contempoary in New Jersey, to reveal the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy that came within a few blocks of the gallery. It’s where the water went.


Left: Silver Hudson, 2011, recycled silver. Photo: Kerry McFate, courtesy Pace Gallery. Right: Silver Columbia, 2017, recycled silver. Photo: Kerry McFate, courtesy Pace Gallery.

Where the Water Flowed (NJ): 10/29/2012. Glass marbles, adhesive. From Occupy Mana: Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale That Society Has the Capacity to Destroy (Year 1), Mana Contemporary, 2017. Photo: Provided by Kele McComsey, Mana Contemporary.

Above and Below drawings and cave photo. Courtesy the artist.

Above and Below, 2007. Epoxy-coated aluminum tubing. Photo: Eric Lubrick. Courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art.


Maya Lin

Maya Lin is an American architect and sculptor. Lin graduated from Yale University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1981 and a Master of Architecture degree in 1986.


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