Year-round Festival Series 14 – Mother’s Day – The Story of Artist-Mother: Ruth Asawa

Contemporary art is dominated by male artists, and when a female artist becomes a mother, the path is more difficult than when she is single. In her exhibition New Maternalisms, contemporary artist Natalie Loveless brings a revolutionary perspective on the deeper life experiences that come with motherhood, which leads to deeper and more interesting artworks.

Becoming a mother doesn’t affect creative career

As a mother of six children, Japanese American artist Ruth Asawa’s studio looks like a preschool. In some of the photos that capture her caring for her children while she works, children and babies play around the studio sculptures. The artist mother is working and taking care of them at the same time. She shows the harmony of being with her children. She did not fall into the hot feminist category of the time, and scholars have tried to avoid discussing her work in feminist terms because she did not object to the role of women as caregivers in the home. Although Asawa’s interracial marriage was also a breakthrough at the time, as the mother of six children, she does not classify herself as a feminist artist who resists patriarchy.

Artist Asawa’s use of iron wire creates sinuous geometric forms that are at the same time as vibrant and organic as nature. Her large, yet light and thin, hanging sculptures are now in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

She studied at Black Mountain College in Northern California with Josef Albers, a pioneering artist of the German Bauhaus school of architecture, and found her own unique way of working under his tutelage. She was also praised by her mentor as one of the most gifted, productive and inspiring artists.

Becoming a mother, leading to the peak of life

Ruth Asawa’s rise to fame as an artist is deeply connected to being a mother and partner. Although she has been called “a San Francisco housewife,” she refuses to see motherhood as a hindrance. She even avoided flying out of town for artist residencies and commercial commissions, choosing to work on projects in her hometown of San Francisco without disrupting her family’s life.

Between 1950 and 1959, she and her architect husband, Albert Lanier, had six children. Rather than being a hindrance to her work, the children became her little helpers in the studio. She hung her sculptures in her home as a display. The bulbous, round sculptures densely outlined in iron wire seem to suggest the powerful fertility of nature, and the vitality of human beings as part of that nature to reproduce the next generation. Five of the six children’s homes are located within walking distance of their home. Close family ties are one of the major achievements of artist Asawa and an important source of happiness and security for her.

The couple also brought their children into building a home. When the children were young, they were encouraged to create furniture together, such as making a door in a rural community with the children out of local mahogany. They are building a home together as a family. In addition, artist Asawa and her husband are actively involved in building their community, being good citizens and giving back to their community. She has also successfully incorporated art education into the local curriculum.

Artist Asawa’s reshaping of the concept of family began from the inside and gradually spread to the outside. Like her transparent artworks, she extends and expands love into the homes of others and into the community. The power of action and influence of a woman reaches its peak when she becomes a mother!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who have given of themselves!


#YearRoundFestivalSeries #MothersDay #RuthAsawa #children #artiststory


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Elva Lai is a passionate and determined artist. She loves reading, learning, travelling, hiking and drinking coffee in the morning. Elva received her education in Hong Kong, USA and Germany.

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