words Anna Bates
This fish-cutting table by Chinese-American artist and architect Maya Lin is part of a permanent installation in Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington State.
The table is one element of Lin’s landscape project, which commemorates the over-ground journey across America, from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean, that the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark undertook 200 years ago.
The table, used by fishermen to wash and cut fish, is located at Baker Bay, the point where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. It is made from a polished block of basalt and replaces a rusty industrial sink that was previously on the site. The words carved into the basalt describe the creation legend of Cape Disappointment’s native inhabitants, the Chinook Indians. “You’re aware that you are in their homeland,” says Lin. “You’re stepping on sacred land.”
Lin restored the wetland landscape of the Cape Disappointment peninsula, and created a nature trail between the fish table in the east, a driftwood sculpture in the west and a restored amphitheatre between the two. Lin’s interventions refer to both white and native American histories. “I wanted to teach people that, yes, Lewis and Clark were here, but look who else was,” she says.
This installation is the first of seven interventions by Lin along the Columbia River, collectively called the Confluence Project. They are sited along 450 miles from the Idaho border in Oregon to the Pacific, the final section of Lewis and Clark’s historic 4133-mile journey across the continent. “I wanted to take a mirror and reflect back on the journey,” says Lin.
Lin gained prominence in 1982, when she was just 21, for her Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Anna Bates