A Zen Buddhist background supported RUth Asawa at an early age in her determination to become an artist. From misfortune to good fortune, in 1942 in the temporary Japanese internment distribution center at Santa Anita racetrack, she received art training from fellow internees - Walt Disney studio artists who spent five hours a day teaching drawing. She continued her art training at the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas, finally earning a scholarship to Black Mountain College in North Carolina to study with avant-garde artists Josef Albers and Buckminster Fuller. Inspired by their philosophies and life-long friendship, she found a unique aesthetic ‘voice’ in her experiments with wire crocheted forms using natural tools: her fingers. After Black Mountain, she moved with her husband San Francisco, where she continued to crochet her wire sculptures. In the 1960s, she explored lithography through a fellowship to the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles. The lithographs created there echo the airy, lacy forms of her wire sculptures, as well as the organic forms of her cast bronze work.
Over the years, as a mother of six, an inspiring teacher, a renowned artist and a community arts advocate, Asawa created cast bronze pedestal pieces and numerous public sculptures throughout the extended San Francisco region while receiving accolades and many awards and exhibiting in museums internationally. Her work has been purchased by prestigious institutions that include the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Arts in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Oakland Art Museum. She was recently the subject of a retrospective exhibition, Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air, which was shown at the De Young Museum in San Francisco and the Japanese American National Museums in Los Angeles.