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Who was Ruth Asawa? Facts and quotes from the Japanese-American artist

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 01/05/2019 Georgia Chambers
Ruth Asawa sitting posing for the camera © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May, Google has unveiled its first doodle honouring Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa.

Asawa overcame discrimination during World War II to become a hugely influential figure in the West Coast art scene.

An educator as well as an artist, Asawa was someone who believed “art will make people better.”

Here’s everything you need to know about Ruth Asawa, the inspiration behind today’s Google Doodle:

Who was Ruth Asawa?

Asawa was born to immigrant Japanese parents in 1926 in the Southern California city of Norwalk.

A budding artist from an early age, she won her first art prize when she was just 13 for a piece of work depicting what makes someone American, a conscious theme that can be noticed in much of her later work.

In the wake of WWII, her family was detained in a Japanese-American internment camp. Undeterred, she continued to study art and later attended the Milwaukee State Teachers College, as Japanese people were prohibited from attending college in California.

Having made a name for herself thanks to her unique wire sculptures, she went on to design the Japanese-American Internment Memorial Sculpture in San Francisco in 1994 and the Garden of Remembrance at San Francisco State University.

Passionate about educating others in the arts, she helped found the San Francisco School of the Arts, which was later renamed the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts in her honour.

Asawa died in San Francisco in 2013 aged 87.

Why is she being celebrated with a Google Doodle?

Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa is being celebrated with a Google Doodle (Google ) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa is being celebrated with a Google Doodle (Google )

The doodle, designed by Alyssa Winans, features five of the artist’s hanging wire sculptures - the designs for which she was known.

Inspired by Native Mexican basket-weaving techniques, Asawa used wire, stone and bronze to create her pieces.

“I was interested in it because of the economy of a line, making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent,” Asawa previously said of her work.

“I realised that if I was going to make these forms, which interlock and interweave, it can only be done with a line because a line can go anywhere.

Ruth Asawa quotes:

“Art is doing. Art directly deals with life.”

“Sometimes good comes through adversity. I would not be who I am today had it not been for the interment, and I like who I am.”

“When you put a seed in the ground, it doesn’t stop growing after eight hours. It keeps going every minute that it’s in the earth. We, too, need to keep growing every moment of every day that we are on this earth.”

“The best ideas come unexpectedly from a conversation or a common activity like watering the garden. These can get lost or slip away if not acted on when they occur.”


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