Emma Ridgway on Ruth Asawa
Play • 1 hr 2 min
In episode 63 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews the esteemed curator Emma Ridgway of Modern Art Oxford on the majorly influential, RUTH ASAWA (where she is set to have an exhibition in 2022!!!). 

[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: www.alighieri.co.uk | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]

Artist, educator, trailblazer and sculptor, Ruth Asawa is up there with the greatest and most influential artists of the entire 20th century, Best known for her looped-wire sculptures that expand form, defy structure, and blurring all illusions between hard and soft, tall and small, strongand fragile, RuthAsawa's works ranged from colossal to small enough to fit in your hand.  

The fourth of seven siblings, Ruth Asawa was brought up on a rural farm in California by immigrant parents of Japanese descent. Curious and energetic, she spent her childhood helping out on the farm by wiring beans, and attending Japanese calligraphy classes. But as it was the 1930s, the racial prejudice against people of Japanese heritage was worsening. Following the attack on Pearl Harbour, around 120,000 Japanese-Americans were placed in internment camps, including a teenage Ruth Asawa. Which in this episode, we speak about in great depth.  

But against the demonstrative conditions and dehumanising set up, communities came together.Providing education for the young people in the camps, professional artists stepped up, and Ruth was taught by some of the greatest Disney animators of the day. Shaped by her teachers, Asawa set out to be an educator herself. However, despite training for three years, was denied a job due to racial prejudices. 

So, in the summer of 1946, she enrolled at Black MountainCollege, and it was here where she flourished: ‘I spent three years there and encountered great teachers who gave me enough stimulation to last me for the rest of my life.’ Taking classes with Josef and Anni Albers to Buckminster Fuller (whose hair she cut for a bit of extra money!), Asawa took the BMC approach to her career, by inextricably linking art with life, and life with art. 

Moving to SF in '49, Asawa's legacy in setting up art education is tough to compete with. And it is there that she still remains an icon, with the Ruth Asawa School of Arts still very much in full swing today. 

I am not exaggerating when I say this may be the most extraordinary, hopeful, brilliant story in art history. I really hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  


Follow us:
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Winnie Simon
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield


Ruth Asawa: Citizen of the Universe is curated by Emma Ridgway and Vibece Salther, organised in partnership by Modern Art Oxford UK and Stavanger Art Museum Norway, supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.   

Opens 28 May - 21 Aug 2022 at Modern Art Oxford then 1 Oct 2022 - 22 Jan 2023 at Stavanger Art Museum. I CAN'T WAIT!
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