Throwback Thursday: The Vietnam Memorial

December 2, 2010 · Posted in Modern Design, Throwbacks 

Perusing a favorite text book while considering this week’s throwback, I was reminded of so much art that I love, but have basically forgotten about.  I came to an image of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  It’s not something I “love,” per say.  I really love Rothko and Alexander Calder but, those can be for another time. Anyhow, I saw the aforementioned picture and immediately thought of a poem that my dad does “love.” I won’t get into all of the famed wall’s details.  I will, however, mention something  regarding the memorial that I didn’t learn from a book or class.  “The wall bends in the middle to form two triangular wings that widen as they descend into the earth from a shallow height at the outer corners toward a depth of over 100 feet at their joint.” (Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. pp1137)  Ok, so, that descent into to the earth once didn’t mean much to me. But, when paired with the following poem by Carl Sandberg, Maya Ying Lin’s tribute has become quite poignant.


by: Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

    • ILE the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
      Shovel them under and let me work–
      I am the grass; I cover all.
      And pile them high at Gettysburg
      And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
      Shovel them under and let me work.
      Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
      What place is this?
      Where are we now?
      I am the grass.
      Let me work.

My Dad taught me that by creating a memorial that gashes into the earth, Lin is denying the grass to “go to work” and let us forget about those whose names The Vietnam Veterans Memorial bears.


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