Maps point way to Spoleto 2010

'From Rhode Island to South Carolina' was created by American artist Maya Lin.

Every year, the unveiling of the Spoleto Festival USA poster signals the approach of the performing arts festival and serves as a signature symbol by a prominent artist.

When Spoleto Festival general director Nigel Redden unveiled the official 2010 festival poster on Tuesday, he said, "This will be known as the Maya Lin year."

Commissioned for the festival, "From Rhode Island to South Carolina" was created by Lin, the American artist who also created the famed Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"The (Spoleto) posters all stand apart as works of art by well-known artists," Redden said.

This year's poster is a map excavation of two facing pages from a world atlas. The left page is Rhode Island and the right page is South Carolina. Because it is toward the back of the book, the South Carolina page has fewer layers, leading to the black and white index, while the Rhode Island page has many more colorful layers, leading to Moscow. It creates "unexpected juxtapositions and fascinating new perspectives," according to Spoleto officials.

Lin's work gives the map "a third dimension that typically we don't see," Redden said.

He sees it as a happy coincidence that it includes Rhode Island and South Carolina. "Of course, there is a story about what connects Rhode Island and South Carolina," he said. But also, the "arbitrariness represents the way of the festival," he said. Every season in the festival's program, "opera is juxtaposed with jazz, avant-garde theater with chamber music, et cetera" Lin, an award-winning architect and artist, was a controversial pick for the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because her work was conceptual rather than figurative. She was a 21-year-old Yale University student whose work was chosen from more than 1,400 entries.

Her works also include "The Wave Field" at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, a pure-earth sculpture made of soil covered with grass.

Landscape is the context and the source of inspiration for Lin's art, according to her website.

Redden said he saw a series of map excavations she had done and "asked her to do something with the eastern United States and she agreed very kindly. I thought people would think it strange if she used a map of China or middle Europe, so we asked her to consider the eastern United States."

The poster can be displayed sideways or upright. When he hangs it in his home, Redden said he will likely turn it on it's side, with South Carolina oriented in the way most people are familiar.

"The whimsy of it is what I love," he said.

The poster is traditionally displayed throughout the city during the festival's annual 17-day run. This year's festival opens May 28 and closes with the traditional fireworks display at Middleton Place Plantation June 13. In between will have more than 140 performances of opera, theater, music and dance.

The poster, which sells for $25, is available for sale online at spoletousa.org, by calling 579-3100 or at the box office at the Gaillard Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St.