Mengwen Cao

What I love about Maya Lin’s work is that it layers what’s right in front of us with what might be forgotten or overlooked. Think of how the Vietnam Veterans Memorial superimposes the reflection of your face with the names of the fallen: a reminder that the living and the dead, the past and the present, can never truly be disentangled.

Sometimes her work reveals the literally hidden, like underground rivers or the dramatic contours of San Francisco Bay. But it also reveals inconvenient truths long ignored: the costs of environmental degradation, the ravages of extinction, our long national history of exclusion in civil rights and gender equality.

Ghost Forest (2021) did both at once, puncturing Madison Square Park with an eerie glimpse into the future: the slow decimation of forests that’s already occurring around the globe. Lin has an uncanny power to make the invisible visible, shaking us out of complacency into a new state of awareness.

Ng is a novelist, most recently of Little Fires Everywhere

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at

Simu Liu
Tim Cook
Mary J. Blige
Candace Parker
Volodymyr Zelensky
5 stories