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Ruth Asawa

ruth asawaThis week’s post is about another great female artist: Ruth Asawa.

Ruth was a Japanese-American artist and California native. She was born in 1926 and lived on a farm. She was a daydreamer and her artistic talent was recognized at a young age. In 1942, in the midst of World War II Ruth, her mother, and five siblings were sent to an internment camp. Unlike the other members of her family, she only spent 18 months in the makeshift prisons. While interned in Arkansas, she had the fortune of meeting animators for Walt Disney, who provided art lessons. Later in life, Ruth said, “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.”

She studied art in Milwaukee, but was unable to complete her final training due to discrimination against Americans of Japanese descent.

Ruth traveled to Mexico, a trip that also changed the course of her life. There, she met fellow artists who encouraged her to attend Black Mountain College, an experimental and idealistic school that allowed students to choose their own courses. While in Mexico she also learned the art of looping wire to make baskets. This technique was later used in her famous wire sculptures.

Her time at Black Mountain College influenced the way she thought about art and art education. She met many artists who went on to become famous in their own right, including Elaine De Kooning and Josef Albers.

Ruth later settled in San Francisco and her presence is still felt there: from the SF Arts Education Project (founded originally as the Alvarado Arts Workshop) to the beautiful wire sculptures that can be seen for free at the De Young Museum.

We feel so lucky that the Bay Area was made more beautiful through Ruth’s many public works projects and her determination to provide kids with arts education.