Saturday, September 6, 2008

Maya Lin's Confluence Project: The Amazing Land Bridge

This is Maya Lin walking up Land Bridge from the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver.
Also shown is a model to give you the full effect of this bold concept, the artist Lillian Pitt and the architect John Paul Jones.

Confluence Project is the largest work of Land Art ever created. It extends 450 miles along the Columbia River and includes seven different sites. The initial impulse was part of the commemoration of Lewis and Clark's journey in 1804, but it is a commemoration of loss, a celebration of rebirth, a restoration of the land, and as the new brochure declares " (it is)places reclaimed, transformed, re-imagined."

Maya Lin and the Confluence Project are collaborating with many different people in order to make these sites happen, but particularly with Native Americans .
They invited her to be a part of the project after seeing the film on her Vietnam Memorial. They felt that she could commemorate the loss of their cultures since Lewis and Clark.

But the project also marks the loss of birds, and other species, as well as plants and flowers by recording Lewis and Clark's journals and making reference to their current status. ( see Bird Blind entry next)

The first site dedicated was Cape Disappointment at the Confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. I have written about it in Sculpture magazine, along with an exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington in Seattle of Maya Lin's sculpture.

Last weekend the Land Bridge was dedicated. John Paul Jones who also completed the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC was responsible for making it into a reality, starting from an extraordinary concept, developed with Maya Lin, of an implied circular form.

The site of the Land Bridge is on Fort Vancouver, a military site established in 1848 when the US basically made the Hudson Bay Company leave. The Hudson Bay Company had established itself on this site on the shores of the Columbia River in 1824, twenty years after Lewis and Clark passed by. The site had already been cleared with controlled burning by native tribes in order to grow plants like Camas that they used in their daily lives for eating, making baskets, medicine and many other purposes. It was a place where inland tribes came down to the river to trade with the river Indians. It was called the "place of the turtle". The connection between the inland and the river has now been reestablished with the Land Bridge.

It is called Land Bridge because it includes native grasses and plants. John Paul Jones called it "pulling the prairie over the road", and indeed that is what it does. It spans a wide highway, then drops down to an historic apple orchard with the first apple tree planted in Washington State in 1825. Then there is an underpass under the railroad and you arrive at the river.
The Bridge is a beautiful sweep that meanders like the original Indian Trail, even as it suggests part of an implied circle. Maya Lin and John Paul Jones collaborated on the original concept when the whole project seemed almost impossible.
The bridge is marked by a Welcoming Gate made of cedar and basalt

with a glass sculpture that captures the light and makes reference to the role of women in the Columbia River cultures. Three seating areas are marked, "land" "water" "people", with Indian words for those concepts cut into the vista point. Lillian Pitt who is photographed above near her seating "baskets" created benches with stainless steel backs that have designs evoking petroglyps and pictographs from the Columbia River.

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