Mapping nature’s stunning beauty

Maya Lin's Silver Upper White River

Maya Lin, Silver Upper White River, 2015, recycled silver, 332.7 x 609.6 x 1 cm (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, © Maya Lin) Speakers: Alejo Benedetti, Assistant Curator, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Steven Zucker, a Seeing America video

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Lin, Silver Upper White River

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Key points

  • Maya Lin’s Silver Upper White River traces a local waterway within the Mississippi River watershed. Cast from recycled silver, the sculpture is both representational and abstract as the geological path of the river is transformed into a delicate pattern of organic lines.
  • Throughout Lin’s career, she has blended art and architecture with the landscape itself. Installed in a gallery that is also a bridge, Silver Upper White River engages with the environment and also takes on a life of its own as it reflects sunlight and the actual water running nearby.
  • Lin’s use of recycled silver was inspired by early European descriptions of the abundant fish living in American rivers. It evokes this past, but also incorporates the many different histories of the silver itself as it has been reused over the centuries. By choosing recycled silver, Lin also lessens the environmental impact of her work, further supporting her conservationist intentions.

Go deeper

See this work at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art website

Visit Maya Lin’s What Is Missing? Website

Learn more about water sustainability and the environmental impact of changing waterways

Watch Maya Lin discuss her marble sculpture series, Disappearing Bodies of Water, at ART 21

Watch Maya Lin discuss her river sculptures at ART 21

Read the website for the exhibition A River Is A Drawing  and watch a video of Maya Lin discussing her work at the Hudson River Museum

Read about the Upper White River watershed at Ozarks Water Watch

More to think about

Maya Lin encourages people to connect to the environment where they live. Visit Lin’s digital project website, Are there stories included from your area? Lin’s project encourages people to leave their own memories on the map, pulling from their experiences of the natural world that have changed or are endangered. What experiences could you add?

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.