Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ruth Asawa is my Hero

Have you seen Ruth Asawa's work ? Her wire sculptures are breathtaking in their sensuous simplicity. Get closer and the simplicity gives way to organic complexity. her work draws me to it and then makes me laugh in pure visual enjoyment.

Ruth Asawa is my hero not just because I love her work but because of how she responded to the arc of her life. Growing up as a Japanese American in Southern California she worked her father's farm as a kid. After Pearl Harbor government men came and took away her father to the first internment camps. She soon followed. She says about those times : "I learned a great lesson there- how to make decisions and look out for myself, skills I didn't have growing up as a good Japanese daughter."

Later she wanted to study to be a teacher, but that was denied to her too, being of Japanese descent. So she went to Black Mountain, a famous experimental art college . There she studied with former Bauhaus teachers, met Bucky Fuller and most importantly her future husband. She says of the time : " I was asked my opinions. I had never had opinions before then..."

One summer she went to Mexico and learned to weave baskets out of wire. This led to her discovery that wire weaving could be taken even further, thus her sculptural work was born.

Ruth married and moved to San Francisco with her architect husband and had many children. She also began to create endless streams of sculpture in her big house in the hills. She met and mingled with the bohemian who's who of the Bay Area. Her home became a center of conversation, cooking and creativity.

Ruth Asawa took all the minuses in her life and found the pluses inside them. She learned to balance each side of her life and still make beautiful work. She is older now and illness has slowed her down. Someday I'd like to see that house on the hillside. Ruth Asawa is my hero.

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