Maya Lin Captures the Hudson’s Beauty and Power

When Miwako Tezuka was invited to guest curate an exhibition at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, N.Y., two thoughts sprang into her mind.

One: She wanted to do something “impactful” about nature, climate change and the environment, “with a really strong educational aspect to it.”

“Maya is a continuation of great American artists who appreciate the beauty and power of nature,” said Ms. Tezuka, 48, who specializes in modern and contemporary Asian art. “What better place to do that show than the Hudson River Museum?”

There was just one problem: Ms. Tezuka didn’t know Ms. Lin personally. But she wrote up a proposal anyway, and through mutual art world associates approached Ms. Lin last summer. “I said, maybe if she can do one site-specific installation related to the river and we can select existing works to accompany that,” Ms. Tezuka recalled.

But Ms. Lin, a staunch environmentalist who is obsessed with the effects of climate change and the geology and topography of rivers, wanted to contribute more than one work. In fact, she wanted to do an entire show that focused on “the Hudson River and the waterways around us.”

“I took one look at the atrium, and knew I wanted to treat the museum as my site,” she said, referring to the 28-foot ceiling in the middle of the museum. “I’m very interested in making a much more environmental installation around you.”

The result is “Maya Lin: A River Is a Drawing,” which opened at the museum on Oct. 12 and runs through Jan. 20.

On a recent afternoon amid a torrential downpour, Ms. Lin, 59, slight in a pair of slacks and clogs, warmly showed a visitor around the museum. Sheets of paper and scraps of metal were strewn about.

The exhibition presents 12 works in a range of media, some of which were still being assembled. “Pin River — Hudson Watershed” 2018, is composed of more than 20,000 pins. “Reed River” 2018, in the museum’s courtyard, includes over 200 bamboo reeds and Kentucky bluegrass. In “Concrete River” 2018, Ms. Lin filled in existing cracks, holes and bumps on asphalt outside the museum with painted silver lines. And in “Folding the Hudson” 2018, she spread nearly 22,000 recycled industrial glass marbles in the shape of the Hudson River basin throughout the museum’s floor, walls and ceiling.

“The Hudson Bight” 2018, is an augmented seafloor map of the Hudson Canyon, a submarine canyon that was created by the glacial change at the end of the last ice age. The piece tumbles through the museum’s atrium on a diagonal, a 30-foot installation with contours drawn with webbing wires.

Part of her inspiration for that piece, Ms. Lin said, came from an article she read about the canyon, which reaches over 10,000 feet at its deepest. “Scientists discovered that because it’s colder in the deepest part and because of the tidal flow, water is flowing in that river,” Ms. Lin said. “So in a lot of ways it’s an underground river. I’m trying to get you to see things that are quite literally under your feet but you had no idea were there.”

Ms. Lin is not new to the Hudson River Valley. In 2004, she designed the Greyston Bakery along the Yonkers waterfront on the Hudson River. In 2009, she created a permanent site-specific work, “Storm King Wavefield,” at Storm King Art Center in the lower Hudson Valley. And in 2014, Ms. Lin and her husband, the art collector Daniel Wolf, purchased a Yonkers City Jail and converted it into a private art space.

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