clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ruth Asawa, famed wire sculpture artist, celebrated in today’s Google Doodle

The basket-like creations challenge traditional notions of material and sculptural form


Today’s Google Doodle honors Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa, a sculptor known for weaving intricate, nest-like wires into hanging pieces of art. Google launched the doodle in celebration of Asian-American Pacific Islander month, which takes place in May.

Born in 1926, Asawa and her family worked as farmers until World War II when they were sent to an internment camp. Asawa spent 16 months at the camps before heading to Milwaukee State Teachers College to become an art teacher. Undeterred by racism that prevented her from student teaching, Asawa transferred to the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. There, she met and married architect Albert Lanier and fine-tuned her artistic practice.

Portrait of Japanese-American artist sculptor Ruth Asawa as she kneels on the floor amid several of her works, November 1954.
The LIFE Picture Collection/Gett

Inspired by weaving techniques in Mexico, Asawa created looped wire structures that were influenced by the shapes of plants, spiders, spiral shells, and deflected light. The basket-like creations challenged traditional notions of material and sculptural form, and the crochet wire structures required intensive discipline and technical precision to create.

When seen in an exhibition, the sculptures are dynamic and airy, a three-dimensional exploration of texture and shape that sometimes features forms within forms. In this way they are similar to buildings—Asawa’s work always juxtaposes proportions, transparency, and space.

While Asawa’s work was often considered “craft-based” and underappreciated in her lifetime—she died in 2013—a recent reexamination has elevated her to her rightful place as an important post-war figure. She designed the Japanese-American Internment Memorial Sculpture in San Jose in 1994 as well as SF State University’s Garden of Remembrance, which includes boulders from ten internment camps.

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri, recently held a career-spanning show on Asawa, the first major museum exhibition of her work outside the West Coast.

Ruth Asawa’s Untitled is photographed at the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, on September 7, 2018.
The Washington Post/Getty Images