Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Maya & Me

A couple years ago, I was standing on the corner of York and Elm when a crazy guy (the tall, lumbering fellow with the beard and the broken glasses) approached me and told me that I "reminded him of Maya Lin."

Obviously, the first thing I did when I returned home that afternoon was to google image search Maya Lin, who, of course, looks nothing like me. I chalked it up to white people thinking all asians look alike and homeless people being starved for conversation and forgot about the affair.

I recalled the experience yesterday, when a class of mine screened Maya Lin: A Clear and Strong Vision, a short documentary about the controversy surrounding the design and reception of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Very interesting subject matter--the piece raises questions related to the accountability of public art, the purpose of a memorial, the ability of artistic innovation to reform its audience, the profits of a conflict-based discourse--with a very strange leading lady. Essentially, Maya Lin seems totally nuts: She wears wacky outfits and floppy hats, her hair is constantly flying in various directions, she speaks in an absurdly low voice, her face twitches a lot, and she smiles at the wrong moments.

So it all comes full circle: In saying that I "reminded" him of Maya Lin, the homeless man was pointing to our shared awkward demeanor/physical comportment rather than some race-based similarity. In retrospect, I wish I had responded by telling him he looks like Bruce Vilanch of Hollywood Squares infamy rather than pretending I didn't have any spare change.

9 comments:

Dash said...

I can't get over the fact that the homeless man knew what Maya Lin looked like (even if he was mistaken). Architects, for such public figures, are mostly invisible creatures. We sadly have no buildings that resemble self-portraits.

But, you're right. The fact that he was able to know your inner awkwardness in such a short time frame is astounding. Perhaps he is a Jungian, now horribly out of fashion.

mr. wrongway said...

Crackheads usually see into people pretty quickly. Maybe he was a Jungian crackhead.

Isaac said...

i always give homeless change

elmrockcity said...

I know! Town-gown relations here are fascinating...it seems very stratified. As in, families, the elderly, and artistic consumers profit from Yale, while younger New Haven-ites--artists, writers, musicians--might suffer from the competition/lack of recognition engendered by the University's prolific output.

And homeless people, it seems, are privy to cultural refraction?

Rich said...

the homeless people in new haven are simply brilliant.

one time the shakespeare lady asked we for the time, i looked at my watch, and she said, "you went to dalton, didn't you?" (i was wearing completely generic college clothing and she was correct of course, but then she recited the witches' speech from macbeth for the 1 millionth time, which was less impressive)

and this other time, country ray (i think...) fell flat on his face on the street and got up and kept walking as if nothing at all had happened.

Isaac said...

Wait, someone is trying to usurp my secret identity! "Isaac" is my nom-de-bloggeur.

LT said...

We watched a video on Maya Lin and the Vietnam Memorial in one of my architecture classes last year... and I've got to agree on the wacky outfits and crazy hats thing.

JD said...

right now somehow a recording of william hung singing "Hotel California" has come on my box (i.e. speaker system). This just is no good. In fact , this is really bad.

Lyn said...

Wacky outfits and hats? It was the eighties. And her hair flying in all directions? It was windy.