May 13, 2004
Meet the Designer
Here I am, checking out The New York Times’ multimedia feature on garden furniture design, when I come across the following paragraph:
The classic garden bench has been reinvented. Stones, near right, by Maya Lin are made of fiberglass-reinforced concrete in three sizes, $356 to $1,156; from Knoll, www.knoll.com…
WTWWJDF??! Maya Lin, the legend, the 20 year-old second-generation American girl who probably did as much as any other artist to catapult this country into the age of modern art, the paragon of artistic integrity who etched sorrow into smooth black stone, Maya Lin is designing garden furniture?!?
Oh, but it’s true. And it doesn’t end there.
Lin’s latest corporate work reflects the themes she has developed in her 20-year career. Her Winter Garden for American Express has a water wall that offers soothing sounds and a floor that undulates like a hillside meadow. The flowing spaces in her apartment for Peter Norton, founder of software maker Norton Utilities, can be zoned off with sliding partitions, much like a traditional Japanese house. Her wall in the lobby of the headquarters of the Principal Financial Group has a creek running through it, an open invitation to feel the flowing water.
Rolling hills inspired Lin’s curvilinear lounge chair, which also conforms to the contours of the human body. Non-Western objects, such as Chinese porcelain pillows and African headrests, were models for Lin’s collection for Knoll Inc., the office-furnishings maker. The collection, called Stones, consists of seats and a coffee table made of precast concrete.
Well, if I was a bit taken aback at first, I, for one, have already mellowed. The pictures of Lin’s unembellished artistry, paired with the soothing words and phrases of Corporate America — “Aveda,” “Principal Financial Group,” “curvilinear lounge chair” — have proved an opiate to my disquiet. After all, artists must make money, right? And it’s better, isn’t it, that the corporatists should have rolling oceanic sculptures for their art than gawky metallic polluto-machines made from the fledglings of endangered species? And with her line of lawn chairs, Lin’s art won’t just be for the elite, but available to the masses, which is a plus, right? Right?