Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.373, Hanging Six-Lobed, Multilayered Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form), 1954. Enameled and oxidized copper wire. Collection of Black Mountain  College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Lorna Blaine Halper.

Ruth Asawa (Student 1946-1949) (b.1926-d.2013)

At the age of 16, Ruth Asawa and her family were sent to a Japanese American internment camp in California and then to a camp in Arkansas. After her release, she attended Milwaukee State Teachers College. Unable to complete her student teaching because of her race, Ruth then came to BMC, where she studied under Josef Albers, Ilya Bolotowsky, Buckminster Fuller, and Merce Cunningham. After a trip to Mexico, Ruth began making the wire sculptures for which she is most known. 

After BMC, Ruth settled in San Francisco with her husband Albert Lanier, an architecture student she met at the college. She received many public art commissions in California, including San Francisco Fountain at the Grand Hyatt on Union Square, the Mermaid Sculpture at Ghirardelli Square, and the Japanese-American Internment Memorial Sculpture at the Federal Building Plaza in San Jose. Ruth became an avid supporter of arts education in San Francisco and poured much of her energy into starting a public high school for the arts there. In 2010, the school was renamed for her and is now the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.

Ruth Asawa and fellow BMC alumna Joan Stack at Asawa’s 1955 opening reception at the Peridot Gallery in New York. Black Mountain College Project Papers, gift of Lorna Blaine, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.