In a field based so heavily in subjectivity, definitively answering the question, "Why is that art?" proves to be nearly impossible. The Dadaists, for instance, defy the laws of traditionally accepted creative practices and celebrate giving the power of artistic definition to the artist. With Dadaism, aestheticism pales in comparison to politically or socially charged content-or lack thereof-and gives way to a movement best described as "avant-garde." Formalists, on the other hand, would define art in a manner quite opposite to that of the Dadaists. Formalism admires the aesthetic; it celebrates proper technique and the high-quality implementation of the elements of art, such as space, form, and color. With such varying descriptions of the qualities that validate art as "art," where does one draw the line? (Pun intended.) According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, art is defined as "something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings." Such a definition appeases both the Dadaists and the Formalists, the Constructivists and the Pop artists, et cetera, for its words qualify all artistic movements and styles. The definition as a whole, however, is fully embodied by the practices of Maya Lin, an artist whose work relies just as heavily on concept as it does on aesthetic. Reflecting the artistic theories of Expressionism as well as Cognitivism, Lin, most renowned for her memorials and environmentally inspired works, seeks to impact society by encouraging her viewers to reevaluate how they perceive their surroundings, often by attempting to refocus their attention on nature through using the earth itself as her medium.
Maya Lin, an Asian American artist and architect, was born to Chinese immigrant parents in 1959 and grew up in the small Ohio town of Athens. Being the daughter of two Ohio University educators-her father a ceramicist and Dean of Fine Arts, her mother a poet and literature teacher-Lin developed a thirst for knowledge and creativity starting at a very young age.