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Ruth Asawa
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    (January 24, 1926-August 5, 2013)
    Born in Norwalk, California
    Known for her wire sculptures and for her fountains
    Fountains in San Francisco include Andrea the Mermaid in Ghiradelli Square (1966), the Hyatt at Union Square (1973), the Buchanan Mall Fountains (1976) and Aurora on the Waterfront (1986)
    Also created the Japanese-American Internment Memorial Sculpture in San Jose (1994)
    Most of her sculptures have no title.
    While sculpting, she would wrap her hands in bandages to avoid cuts from the wire -- often to no avail.
    For much of her career, she was little known outside of the San Francisco Bay area.
    The San Francisco Chronicle said her work was dated, claiming that the undulating shapes of many of her hanging wire sculptures suggested 'a kind of lava lamp peristalsis.'
    As a teen during WWII, she was detained in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans.
    Because of lingering anti-Japanese prejudice, she could not get a job as an art teacher.
    She was married to architect Albert Lanier for 59 years until his death.
    She helped found the San Francisco School of the Arts (1982), which was later named in her honor (2011).
    She said, 'When I work on big projects, such as a fountain, I like to include people who haven't yet developed their creative side.'
    For example, for the Hyatt Fountain, she had hundreds of children create neighborhood vignettes with dough that she then cast in bronze.
    A museum curator said she 'really redefined what a sculpture could be or should be.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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