Ruth Asawa gets her Postage Stamp(s)

Ruth Asawa FacesRuth Asawa (1926-2013), “Faces.” For more on the artist, see below and her web site.

By Paul Ivan Winer Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2012, 2020 Paul Ben-Itzak

Earlier this month, the U.S. Postal Service announced it was issuing a stamp series honoring artist, educator, and Japanese-American concentration camp survivor Ruth Asawa (1926-2013). This piece, “Ruth Asawa: From darkness into light,” was first published on the Arts Voyager on August 14, 2012, and dedicated to Annette, Eva, Sharon, Leah, and all the other parents who with Ruth founded San Francisco’s Alvarado Arts Program in the 1960s. I was one of Ruth’s students, and was later honored, upon graduation from Mission High School, to receive the Ruth Asawa Achievement Award. Special thanks to L.R. for the tip. We’ll make a reporter out of you yet, Lulu. Like what you’re reading? Please help pay for our work — and increased food expenses and risk during this crisis — by subscribing or making a donation today. Just designate your payment in dollars or Euros through PayPal to paulbenitzak@gmail.com , or write us at that address to learn how to donate by check through the mail.

PERRYVILLE, Maryland — Lafayette, when he traversed it on General Washington’s orders, called the mighty Susquehanna River his “rubicom.” This morning as the Sun rises over this vast blue reflecting pool right near where it opens up into the Chesapeake Bay, and I reflect on how a kid from San Francisco’s Noe Valley got here, at the tail end of a three-month arts voyage and personal journey that now finds me in a house where Lafayette ‘lui-meme’ slept, owned by another kid from SF (neighboring Eureka Valley) and her husband, I find myself thinking of Ruth Asawa, who from a childhood interned in a prison camp by her own country (is this what Lafayette and Washington fought for?) went on to turn thousands of kids like me and my pal on to art. I think of art and I think of humility, I think of museums and I think of access.

ruthcobblestonesRuth Asawa (1926-2013), printed by Clifford Smith. “Pigeons on Cobblestones,” 1965. Lithograph. ©1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.1965.200.

ruth5Left: Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), printed by John Rock. Untitled, 1965. Lithograph. ©1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1965.207. Right: Ruth Asawa, printed by Ernest de Soto (b. 1923). Untitled (Flowers XI), 1965. Lithograph. ©1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.1965.353.10.

ruth1Left: Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), printed by Jurgen Fischer. “Chrysanthemums,” 1965. Lithograph. ©1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1965.198. Right: Ruth Asawa, printed by Walter Gabrielson (b. 1935). “Poppy,” 1965. Lithograph. ©1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1965.201.

ruth3Left: Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), printed by Jurgen Fischer. “Umakichi,” 1965. (Umakichi was Asawa’s father, also imprisoned with her by her own country during World War II.) Lithograph. © 1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1965.196. Right: Ruth Asawa (1926 – 2013, printed by Ernest de Soto (b. 1923). Untitled (Flowers XI), 1965. Lithograph © Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1965.353.10.

ruth7Left: Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), “Desert Plant,” 1965. Lithograph. ©1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1965.181. Right: Ruth Asawa (b. 1926), printed by John Rock. “Desert Flower,” 1965. Lithograph. ©1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1965.182.

ruthnastyRuth Asawa (1926-2013), printed by Jurgen Fischer. “Nasturtiums,” 1965. Lithograph. ©1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1965.214. Right: Ruth Asawa (b. 1926), printed by Ernest de Soto (b. 1923).

ruthnude2Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), printed by Clifford Smith. “Nude,” 1965. Lithograph. ©1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.1965.210.

Ruth Asawa and the bounty of migration

ruthcobblestonesThe stuff that America is made of: Ruth Asawa, lithograph, 1965. It was being interned in a concentration camp with her Japanese-American family by the United States government during World War II that convinced Asawa of the primary importance of arts education. Image copyright Ruth Asawa and courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

Umakichi: More art from Ruth Asawa

ruthdad

From the Arts Voyager Archives: Ruth Asawa, “Umakichi,” 1965. Printed by Jurgen Fischer. Lithograph. © 1965 Ruth Asawa. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1965.196. Umakichi was Ruth Asawa’s father. First published on the Arts Voyager in 2012 and republished today in memory of Bill Clark, father, godfather, and friend of Ruth Asawa. Join the Dance Insider/Arts Voyager mailing list today and receive the complete story, with more art by Ruth Asawa, for free. Just e-mail artsvoyager@gmail.com.

When art becomes dangerous: Lange captures Americans captured by their country; Asawa makes something out of it

“A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched — so a Japanese-American, born of Japanese parents — grows up to be a Japanese, not an American.”

— Los Angeles Times, February 2, 1942

lange camps child smallDisappointed by their under-representation in the Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1966) exhibition running at the Jeu de Paume through January 27, or simply unable to get to Paris or to Oakland, at whose museum you can find more of Lange’s photographs of Japanese-Americans imprisoned during World War II, commissioned by the federal government? (Which, once it saw them, realized how dangerous they were if anyone else did and stowed them away in the National Archives, where they languished until 2006.) So were we, until we discovered Tim Chambers’s thorough photo-essay on the blog  of Anchor Editions, where Chambers is making many of the images available as limited-edition prints, donating half the proceeds to organizations fighting to protect immigrant rights. His meticulously documented article is informed by citations from those American citizens (as well as politicians and the media, like L.A. Times screed above) culled by Linda Gordon for her book “Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment,” including this one from Misuyo Nakamura, shepherded to the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Los Angeles before being sent to the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas.: “We were herded onto the train just like cattle and swine.” Lange wrote most of her own captions, including, above: April 29, 2942: San Francisco, California: A young evacuee on bus before it starts for Tanforan Assembly Center. Evacuees will be transferred to War Relocation Authority Centers for the duration. Photo from the National Archives.

ruth nasturtiumsOne of the 120,000 Americans imprisoned in the camps , Ruth Asawa grew up to be not a viper but something just as dangerous: An artist. And a foundry of other artists and artistically-informed citizens. (As well as fountains that began as playdough projects with her charges.) Convinced by her experience as a child locked up in the camps of the importance of education, Asawa went on to found, with other parents, the Alvarado Arts program, which evolved into the San Francisco, now Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. The above lithograph, first published on the Arts Voyager in 2012, is part of a series Asawa produced when she was invited to participate in the Tamarind workshop, which paired artists with master printers. Ruth Asawa, “Nasturtiums,” 1965. Lithograph, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas; 1965.214. Image courtesy Carter Museum. Copyright Ruth Asawa 1965. (Arts Voyager and Dance Insider subscribers can e-mail us at paulbenitzak@gmail.com to receive a copy of the complete article, with more images. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $36/year and receive full access to 20 years of coverage of art and the performing arts. Just designate your payment through PayPal to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us there to learn how to pay by check.)