Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ruth Asawa



One of the reasons I like the daily newspaper is the obituary section.  I know...grave-hunting is creepy enough but the obits, too?  It’s not another morbid quirk.  I look for people I know...accomplished people...interesting individuals I remember from another time.  I’m behind in my Sunday New York Times’ and didn’t learn of Ruth Asawa’s death at age 87 until a month after it happened.  She was an artist and sculptor.

Born in California into a Japanese-American family, she spent the war years in the internment camps with 120,000 other American citizens we could apparently no longer trust because they were Japanese. 

I did not know Ms. Osawa but when I saw the photo of her and her work, I recalled shooting some of it in 2007.  Especially since she made her home in San Francisco, the de Young Fine Arts Museum has a number of her wire sculptures. 

Ruth Asawa sculpture in the de Young Museum [18 May 2007]

At one end of the modern building is a 144-foot tower.  On the ground floor, in a stark and bare-walled atrium, hang some of her wire constructions.  I was drawn to the sight of the sculptures and especially the shadows the spot lights threw onto the walls.  

Interior spaces are often dark and the artificial light can be tricky to photograph.  I suspect iPhones and some point-and-shoot cameras could capture this scene alright.  I changed the white balance to tungsten...a better match to the spot light source.  I did not have a tripod [museums don’t permit them] and had to steady the camera for a 1/13th second exposure...NOT recommended for a quality image.  I was fortunate this one came out as well as it did.

Ruth Asawa sculpture in the de Young Museum [18 May 2007]

Turns out Ruth and I had more of a connection than I thought.  I learned from the Times obit that in 1943, a Quaker group arranged for her to attend the Milwaukee State Teachers College so she could become an art teacher.  I earned my Master’s Degree [and met my wife] there thirty years later when it was the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  After three years of study, she was barred from obtaining a degree because we didn’t allow the Japanese to be student-teachers.  In 1998, the University wanted to make it up to her and award her an honorary doctorate.  She requested her long overdue bachelor’s degree instead.

2 Comments:

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Jan said...

Thank you for posting this...I was just at the de Young and I was interested in the artist for one of the wire sculptures that I took a photo of...

 
At 8:18 AM, Blogger Ted Ringger said...

You're welcome. I'm glad I saw the obit and that it inspired the posting. I look forward to visiting the de Young again one day and seeing her work.

 

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