Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Asawa (Ruth) papers
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Overview
Table of contents What's This?
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)
While Special Collections is the owner of the physical and digital items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Any transmission or reproduction beyond that allowed by fair use requires permission from the owners of rights, heir(s) or assigns.
The materials are open for research use. Selected audiovisual media have been reformatted and are available for access via the Special Collections Reading Room.