After her Japanese American family was imprisoned in internment camps in California and Arkansas, Ruth Asawa was unable to attend art school. In 1946, however, when she was 20 years old, Ruth was accepted at Black Mountain College. She soaked up the BMC teachings of seeing the world as your palette and your toolbox and your “fingers as your tools.”
Later while traveling in Mexico, she was inspired by the looped wire egg baskets she saw being used in the marketplace. She did what she was taught at BMC. She played. She took wire and began looping and seeing what might emerge. From there, her creations were unending – and difficult to categorize.
“It wasn’t stone, it wasn’t welded steel,
it wasn’t traditional sculpture.
They thought it was craft,
or something else, but not art.
They couldn’t define it in the early fifties when I was starting out. I’d get accepted [into a show] and then I’d get a call that I was disqualified because my work wasn’t sculpture…
I don’t care whether or not someone says that my work is art or is not art.
I am interested in finding solutions
Links for Further Exploration
- Artist website
- BMC website portrait of Ruth Asawa
- Craft in America spotlight on Ruth Asawa
- Artnet article: “Once Derided as ‘Domestic,’ Ruth Asawa’s Wire Works Get a Much-Needed Reappraisal”
- Stanford Exhibit: The Faces of Ruth Asawa
- Video: KQED Spark series episode on Ruth Asawa & public education
- Video: ‘Affinity for Stone: The Public Art of Ruth Asawa‘ (KQED)
Invitation to Creativity
Ruth Asawa’s work, like our knitting and crochet, is built on connections and creates unending texture. Today’s Play Date with Creativity is all about texture. Look around your living space for small objects that have texture: the mesh bag your onions came in; bubble wrap; corduroy fabric; some knitted or crocheted fabric; various kitchen implements; or ???. Pull out your Sculpey clay from your Creativity Box. Soften it up with your hands and roll it out into flat pieces that you can play around with embedding textures into. Take pictures of your results. What textures did you like best? Make sure to wrap you sculpey back up when you’re done so we can play with it again another day!