Communication, Politics and Art in D.C.

By Rose Warren

The 555 foot tall Washington Monument. The 223 year old White House. The $3 million dollar Lincoln Memorial. None am I as excited for as Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial.

I’ve only been at Emerson for one semester, but it has already provided me so much. Professor Cher Knight has already taught me so much about art history and concept inIntroduction to Visual Arts. Organizations like CPLA have offered unique experiences and an outlet to apply my education. I am extremely excited to utilize both of these assets on the CPLA trip to Washington D.C.

As the Intro to Art textbook Living with Art outlines, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial “has served to bring a community together.” Unlike the other massive monuments in the U.S. National Mall, the Vietnam Memorial is subdued and humble. Lin was asked to make an objective place to commemorate those lost during the controversial war. Whether or not this is an unbiased piece of art is debatable, but either way this sculpture is a place of reflection and remembrance. I am very excited to reinforce the lesson when in the presence of the piece. Learning about the politics surrounding the creation and reception of the monument is also vital to understanding it. Citizens were upset because a young college student, who also happened to be Asian, was chosen to create the memorial. The claimed non-objectivity has been in question since Lin commented: “I imagined a taking a knife and cutting into the earth…the grass would grow back, but the initial cut would remain a pure flat surface in the earth with a polished, mirrored surface.” Her description can be understood simply as a design influence, or as a commentary on how governments deal with war and its aftermath. This brings into question the motivation of Lin’s art.

When I arrive at the memorial it will be very interesting to see how all the information I have been taught on the subject will influence my reaction to it. I am also excited to see the reactions of others. Being able to enhance one aspect of learning with an opportunity from another is amazing and something I am so grateful to be able to experience.