The papers of sculptor Ruth Asawa relate over eighty years of her rich and varied career, with documentation concerning her
art and commissions as well her involvement in arts education, civic art, and art administration.
Ruth Aiko Asawa Lanier (1926–2013) was a sculptor, painter, and printmaker acclaimed for her biomorphic wire forms and public
art installations, as well as her activism in art education. Asawa was born in the agricultural community of Norwalk, California
on January 24, 1926, to Japanese immigrant parents Umakichi and Haru. She was the fourth of seven children. Her father was
a truck farmer, and the family worked in the fields to support the business. Asawa showed an aptitude for art at an early
age. In 1939, she won a school art competition with her drawing of the Statue of Liberty. On Saturdays, she attended a community
Japanese language and cultural school, where she practiced calligraphy. Although Asawa had hoped to attend art school in Los
Angeles, World War II and the signing of Executive Order 9066 changed everything. She was sixteen years old in February 1942
when her father was arrested by FBI agents and separated from his family for the next six years. A few months later, the family
received orders to relocate. Asawa's mother, who knew very little English, had to orchestrate the closing of the farm on her
own. They were at the Assembly Center at Santa Anita racetrack for six months, and were later moved to a more permanent camp
in Rohwer, Arkansas. Thanks in part to a sympathetic teacher, Ruth excelled in her art classes, and became the art editor
of the class yearbook. She graduated from Rohwer High School in 1943, at a time when certain Nisei were permitted to leave
camp to continue their studies, as long as they stayed away from the coasts.
228 Linear Feet
: 278 containers (206 boxes, 39 flat boxes, 22 map folders, 7 cartons, 4 card boxes, 1 tube)
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