Ruth Asawa

20070310 Ruth Asawa

So much to say here but first I have to recommend Ruth Asawa’s retrospective show entitled “contours in the air” currently at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. I saw it yesterday and was mesmerized by her work, her life, and the practical simplicity with which she approached both. I purchased the catalog because I wanted to know more and when I got home I read the following statement she wrote some years ago:

“I am primarily concerned with art and art education because I have devoted most of my life to the study and practice of art. I have made doing it part of my life. Art is doing. There is either doing or talking about it. Art deals directly with life. After it is done, someone comes along to evaluate it; then someone comes along to exhibit it; then someone comes along to buy it. For each step there is someone preparing to make a profession and livelihood from it.

The only step that is truly real is the first step. The making of the object. This is the step that children should be involved with completely. This involvement helps them to learn their capabilities and limitations. It is learning by making. For this reason, the most highly skilled persons should be teaching them.

Educators know that if children have success in one area it helps them to be successful in other areas. The arts and crafts have built-in opportunities to learn by trial and error and to find basic principles. They present a way of learning that can be applied to other subjects. One thing that educators do not understand-with all due respect-is that art can only be taught by artists. If a non artist teaches a subject called art, it is NON-ART. If you have never made art, you cannot teach the making of art. It is as simple as that.”

With her words ringing in my head, we went off to do the final and fourth lesson on shibori at the local elementary 4th grade classroom.

We arrived early to iron the silk that was dyed during the past two sessions and handed them out to the kids as they filed into the classroom. We had the entire hour today to reflect back on our work and just sit with it and enjoy it. We had the students lay out their silk on their desks and we got ready to walk around the room to see everyone’s pieces. This gave us a quick moment to talk about going to an art show, gallery, or museum and observe the rules of such…as in no touching the artworks, no eating, no horseplay, and of course, no photography (without permission). We all spent 15 minutes or so walking among the desks and looking at all the shibori.

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It was great fun to see them pointing and finding which ones they liked and why. Everyone liked something different! When they sat down we had a question and answer session for them and they had some really great things to ask about shibori and about being an artist. There was a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in what they had created. They were then asked to write a few thoughts on what they had done.

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Here are some excerpts (mis-spellings included):

Hank:
shibori
I have a cloth that’s very red
it took some thohts
from my head

Corey:
I like mine but I want texture, more shapes and more and more color.
as I said it was genis to do texture-I’m definently doing texture next time.

Felix:
I like red and blue together. It would be weird to make orange with pink. Square and circle shapes are great when they are plain.
I would make the most exclusive one yet. At least I made two of them already.

Emahnie:
The dyeing was fun because you get to see what shapes you made when you wrapped. The wrapping was fun because you get to do whatever you want to it.

Devin:
I think both of mine are spectacular!
Sometimes when I was wrapping the string around it would come apart sometimes when you wind around too hard.

Nayad:
I liked this project because we get to make our own without someone else doing it for us.

Billy:
When I was making my pice I thought it was going to be easy but it wasn’t. It was very tough to tie and make the rope tight without letting it fall off.

Tori:
I want to be an artist when I grow up and skarfs with texture and tshirts and uther stuff to.

Camiya:
I feel happy and existing that I’m going to give this to my dad and mom.

Diego:
..I was kind of hoping for a pattern. I would kind of know what to do next time

Nick:
I like when shibori artwork has mysterious shapes and colors. My two pieces make me feel happy. I would like to add texture to my next one.

Branson:
I pretty much liked everything about shibori.The thing I didn’t like was that we only made two pieces. I wanted to make 20- or something like that.

Alan:
I liked the black and white- they stood out. Next time I would try to put texture on my fabric. I felt very odd like I was doing it wrong, but turned out ok!

What else can I say? Give kids more art!

4 thoughts on “Ruth Asawa

  1. jude

    don’t you just love the honesty and simplicity of the approach? great post, and now i am inspired to get at that shibori. very very cool thoughts for today. ” either doing or talking about it…”. let me keep that in my head always.

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  2. MaureenTisch

    I love the gift of your time and talent given to those kids. I expect they’ll remember their shibori work for a long time.

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