Maya Ying Lin's scathing criticism of proposed changes in her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial brought a round of reaction yesterday from both proponents and opponents of those changes.
Frederick Hart, the Washington sculptor commissioned to make a statue for the memorial that was not in Lin's proposal, questioned her right to accuse him of undermining her design.
"Neither Miss Lin nor anyone else has even seen the sculpture," he said. "I don't even know what I'm going to do. I haven't decided on its scale, placement or number of figures . . ." In a story in yesterday's Washington Post, Lin said that adding the sculpture, as well as a flag that is also proposed, would drastically alter the effect of the memorial. Her design is for two black granite walls meeting in a V-shape and inscribed with the names of those killed and missing in Vietnam.
Jan Scruggs, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, also responded yesterday, saying, "We really fought for Maya's design, but we're happy with the compromise. The way it's done does not detract from the design. It makes it 100 percent better, much more beautiful."
Lin's view--that the addition of new elements to her starkly dramatic design undermines her concept--won support from Chicago architect Harry Weese, one of the eight jurors who selected Lin's proposal in the design competition.
Weese blamed Interior Secretary James G. Watt for submitting to pressure from conservatives and insisting that the design be altered to satisfy critics.
"It's as if Michelangelo had the secretary of interior climb onto the scaffold and muck around with his work," Weese said.
And Grady Clay, editor of Landscape Architecture magazine and chairman of the jury, said, "To stick stuff into the composition at this stage is a hell of an intrusion. It ought to be built and judged. Let the public see what a great work of beauty it is. Once that has happened, I think the public would be in outrage that anything could be foisted on it."
Hart will present plans for the controversial statue to the memorial fund, the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission in late August. He said there's nothing particularly unusual about the mixing of work by a sculptor and architect, "especially on such a large-scale public memorial."
Lin, however, accused Hart of "drawing mustaches on other people's portraits" and "scabbing on other artists' work," among other things.
Measuring his words before responding to the accusations, Hart said, "It's not Maya Lin's memorial nor Frederick Hart's memorial. It's a memorial to, for and about the Vietnam veterans to be erected by the American people--in spite of what art wars occur."
Hart said he figures that Lin's attacks on him were triggered by the fact that she was not consulted about the changes approved by the fund. "I don't have anything to do with that," he said. "That's between her and the fund."
This particular "art war" might have been avoided had the two collaborated on the proposed changes, but Hart said he never had "the pleasure of meeting Miss Lin."
Any chance of meeting with her in the future?
"Not today!" he shot back.