Page 2 of 2   <      

At the Corcoran Gallery, Maya Lin Brings the Outside In

Call it a sense of dislocation. Something doesn't belong here. But is it the hill, or the human being?

Keep your ears open: The museum hopes to announce an opportunity for visitors to walk on "2x4 Landscape," under controlled conditions and with special footwear.

'Blue Lake Pass'

Like "2x4 Landscape," "Blue Lake Pass" brings the great outdoors indoors. Taking its name from a mountainous area near the artist's Colorado summer home, it's a topographical rendering (a 3-D scale model, really) of Mother Nature's picturesque peaks and valleys.

Made of pieces of particleboard that have been glued together, it looks like a rectangular sculpture of the Earth's crust that has been carved, like a sheet cake, into 20 chunks, each 3 feet long by 3 feet wide. There are pathways between them so that you can walk among the pieces of this exploded landscape. You can stand inside it and explore it from within.

Tread carefully, though. The passages are narrow: only 2 1/2 feet wide. That's barely big enough for a man's size medium to negotiate without turning sideways. If you wear an XXL T-shirt, good luck. It's claustrophobic.

When Lin was still playing with the work's dimensions, those passageways were, like the blocks of wood themselves, three feet wide. That, Lin says, turned out to be way too big. "You couldn't feel," she says, before pausing to search for just the right word, "it."

You can feel it now, that's for sure. But again, what is that thing you feel? Is it the Colorado land? The artificial landscape based on it? The room itself? Or is it, as if for the first time, the space each of us takes up in the universe?

'Pin River -- Potomac'

"Systematic Landscapes" may be all about the material world (the stuff we see, and marvel at, with our eyes), but it gets at something far less visible.

Take "Pin River -- Potomac." As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said, you can't step into the same river twice. Its waters keep flowing onward, and that state of flux keeps it from ever being pinned down.

Which may be precisely Lin's point.

But "Pin River" calls to mind something else, too. Something that, again, has as much to do with flesh-and-blood bodies as with bodies of water. Take another look at those pins. Don't they, maybe just a little bit, remind you of acupuncture needles? Perhaps the "rivers" Lin wants us to think about aren't the Potomac and its tributaries at all, but the energy meridians that, according to Chinese medicine, course through us all.


<       2

© 2009 The Washington Post Company