As water has always been an important subject of Maya Lin’s environmentally focused artistic practice, works on view at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art evoke its many forms and patterns, including rivers and their rise, oceans and their tides, icebergs, and the detriment of their melting poses. Created with artistic intuition and scientific research, the resulting pieces are compelling in their beauty and multivalence. They not only invite discovery, but also encourage contemplation about the many ways in which we need water and manage its powerful bearings on our environment.

With works from 1994 to today, the exhibition centers on a newly created site-responsive sculptural piece, “Marble Chesapeake & Delaware Bay” (2022), a breathtaking configuration of glass marbles that map these waterways onto the walls and floor of the gallery. This new piece anchors a selection of additional sculptural representations of water in various media, including riverways made of steel pins, icebergs made of plaster, water droplets made of glass, and waves made of spruce, pine, and fir.

A Study of Water highlights Lin’s experiential use of scale and poetic use of common materials, as well as her process of mapping as a conceptual framework, which she describes as “revealing things we may not be thinking about.” This mapping, which visualizes water’s natural and man-made contour, rise, ebb, flow, thaw, and evaporation, also elicits a sense of time. In this way, Lin connects history — both ancient and recent — to the urgency of today’s climate crisis. “Silver Chesapeake,” Lin’s recycled silver wall sculpture, will be presented to further manifest the artist’s formal and conceptual considerations of the region’s waterscapes across time and media.

The exhibition is on view at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art through September 4, 2022.

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