Ruth Asawa

Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) is one of those artists I had never heard of, until I randomly stumbled upon an image somewhere - only to discover that she is a very important American artist, who had an amazing life, made some stunning art and was a tireless activist for education, especially children's arts education. She left quite a legacy in her native California, and in several other places. Perhaps some of my readers have missed out on her, like myself, so here she is - surrounded by some of her signature metal wire sculpture.

She was born in California by Japanese immigrant parents, and was interned during the US/Japanese conflict in World War II, and was subject to much sad racism in her own country - for instance she had to leave teacher college without an actual degree, because no one would hire her for the needed internship. Later she went to art school, and studied under the Bauhaus legend Josef Albers, who inspired her to experiment with commonplace materials. And her one of favorite materials ended up being wire.

I've read somewhere, that her crocheted/woven three dimensional metal sculptures comes from childhood memories of studying insect's wings - and from a later meeting with some basket weavers on a vacation in Mexico, who taught her the particular technique. 

Just see how beautiful they are..... Like pods, fruits, clouds - primitive, in some way. And yet so sophisticated and cool, so very mid century modern. And they look so light! But imagine what they must weigh - and imagine the work involved in making them, and the sheer physical strength she must have had! 

A few more photos of her wire work: a portrait of her from 1952 by Imogen Cunningham and underneath that, her studio with masses of suspended sculptures - and last an installation of hanging pieces, very well lit, so the shadows become an integral part of the work.

Almost as famous as for her artistic work, she was for her many projects with children. 
A most amazing collaboration with children, is the work she did on the San Fransisco Fountain, a massive bronze thing, depicting the history of San Fransisco in bas-relief - mostly based on children's work in play dough, done by kids in her school groups, among those, her own six children. 

There are so many great stories about her, too many for a little blog post like this - but if you feel curious, study a bit more, for instance here, on the official Ruth Asawa website

Last pics: Ruth Asawa working, surrounded by her kids - and the last one is from 1975, from one of her many sculpture workshops with children.

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