Sitting in quietude on the museum floor allows my sensibilities to experience the presence of Maya Lin’s Pin River—Kissimmee. Placed on a wall of the Sally and Michael Gordan Gallery at the Colby Museum of Art, there is a sense of melancholy and solitude that invites me to listen to what is emanating from the sculptural-like work. As the label states, it is another of Lin’s environmental subjects. Here is an intentional composition of an array of specially-made straight pins created to “evoke a topographic map of the Kissimmee River, one of the most engineered and environmentally challenged waterways in the nation (CMA label).” The straight pins are arranged to allow the engineered linearity of the material of the straight pin to produce an organic curvature of Lin’s projection of the Kissimmee waterway system (main waterway and its tributaries) as it seems to meander quietly in a northwest direction along the museum wall.
The impact of situating myself on the floor directly in front of the artwork allowed me to listen to the gentleness of the subtle reflective patterning of the shine bouncing off the round pin heads. The shiny countless pins puncturing the museum wall seemed to silence the violent gestures required to place them there with such artistic and precise engineering. This gesturing action—with the pins forming clusters as part of a re-engineering action—made me wonder about the consequences or results from such manipulation. Here the re-pinning allows changes to the reflections off the pins and changes to the cast shadows. Such changes had me consider the more disruptive and destructive aspects of river-and-earth engineering. When I changed my physical position—when I stood up or swayed my viewing from side to side to physically dance with reflective nature of the material used by Lin—I allowed several things to capture my attention of the work. First, was the effect of the shifting reflections, movement, flux. I was reminded that I am the one moving and not the river. I am not captured by the light on the surface of the river, rather, the seemingly endless number of pins, albeit increased in number by the cast shadows multiplying the count, seem to quiver within the folds of its own reflection on the wall. Second, no color was needed to give dynamism to the shiny matter. The luminosity of the metal mediated by the museum lighting provided the required shimmer seemingly found in any waterway system under sunlit atmospheric conditions. I can imagine that when the museum lights are turned off or dulled, the river no longer flows, no longer seen in flux. A sense of melancholy grows to deep sadness. Any movement of mine may replicate the shifting of cloud cover, reducing the atmospheric illumination and dulling the shimmer. Lastly, I felt that the quietness of Pin River—Kissimmee. Here when the lights are turned off, Pin River—Kissimmee is at rest, no longer allowed to gleam before me, no longer allowed to meander along the wall. As flux is silenced, the shadows disappear and the forms dissipate, allowing it to disappear into darkness.
To view Mya Lin’s Pin River—Kissimmee, 2008. please visit the Colby Museum of Art website: https://www.colby.edu/museum/?s=maya%20lin&obj=/OBJ6560?sid=103&x=