Friday, January 20, 2012

Ruth Asawa

As I mentioned yesterday, I was completely struck by the work of San Francisco artist 
when I visited the ICA last weekend.

So much so, that I decided she should have a post all her own.

I confess to not really knowing much about her before, but seeing the few pieces on display in the
has inspired me to learn more about her life & work.

Born in 1926, to Japanese immigrant farmers in California, Asawa's first introduction to art was in the internment camps during WWII,  where she is pictured below. Of this experience she says:

"I hold no hostilities for what happened; I blame no one. Sometimes good comes through adversity. I would not be who I am today had it not been for the Internment, and I like who I am."

From there she went on to study art at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, studying with the likes of  Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, & Buckminster Fuller. It was here that she, also, met her future husband, architecture & design student, Albert Lanier. Together they would have six children, some of whom are photographed below, by the renowned photographer Imogen Cunningham, a personal friend to the family.

Asawa learned to make wire mesh baskets on a trip to Mexico in 1948, using this technique she began to create the enormous  hanging sculptures she is known for today. Her work is diverse & prolific, however, & some of her other  sculptures are of tumbleweed & tree motifs.

The shadows that these pieces cast, are often as beautiful as the works themselves. 

One thing that always interests me, is seeing photos of the homes of artists. I especially loved seeing these early photos of Asawa's living room, filled with children busy at work, on some art project perhaps, & all of her wonderful sculptural shapes hanging from the rafters.

Not only is Asawa a formidable artists, but she has also been an important advocate for art education, co-fonding schools & art & cultural workshops & festivals in the San Francisco area, which have become models for other communities in the US.

There is certainly much to admire about Ruth Asawa, both as an artist & as a human being.


  1. Hi,Sally.
    Very touching post! It is so glad to see those beautiful arts. I love Asawa's words"I hold no hostilities for what happened; I blame no one. Sometimes good comes through adversity. I would not be who I am today had it not been for the Internment, and I like who I am".
    I read this again and again.

    Tomoko from Japan.

  2. Hi Sally thank you for visiting me ,thank you for sharing this I love your enlightening informative posts on artists and this one is very interesting I love all forms of art ,I wish I had more time to visit galleries here in Athens where we also have plenty of ,but I have very little free time,take care. theodora

  3. what a wonderful post! she is a real inspiration- thank you for putting this together :) Hope you have a cozy weekend-

  4. Thanks so much, I am so pleased that you each found this post & the remarkable work of Ruth Asawa interesting.

    Tomoko, I too found her quote very moving & that she actually learned to draw & appreciate art from other others in the interment camps, some of whom had worked as artists for the Disney Studios.

    Theodora, It makes me so happy to know that other people like you enjoy learning about the same things that I find interesting & inspiring. I hope you will be able to find the time to visit the wonderful art in Athens' museums. I know that I would love to hear about your experiences.

    Kristen, I am so glad to know that you too love the work of Ruth Asawa. What I find most inspiring is that she somehow created all of these amazig & intricate pieces while raising 6 children & being an advocate for art education, all at the same time. That is really inspiring to me!

  5. I love her big hanging forms. I can imagine how the shadows would be a beautiful part of these works.

  6. hi, i found you via kristen's sunny spot and you "brought" me
    ruth asawa, i'm deeply touched by her work, thank you so much!

  7. This is so interesting. I am Sicilian but I grew up in New York, and my husband is Japanese. I am following you from Rome, Italy.

  8. great comments...I too had never heard of this artist. By the way, the photos of the museum are very good.

  9. I didn't know this artist but I like very much her work: it's really beautiful and delicate. Thank you for sharing Sally :)

  10. Wow! Amazing! I had no idea. I love what she said about being in the internment. What a beautiful perspective. I would love to one day go there and see her beautiful works in person.