Podcast 58: Ruth Asawa

It’s our final podcast of 2022!

DLS co-founders Florian Duijsens and Katy Derbyshire join producer Susan Stone to toast the holiday season, chat about this year’s good news in Dead Ladies, and to introduce our featured Dead Lady, artist Ruth Asawa. 

Born to Japanese parents on a farm in California, Ruth Asawa first developed her artistic tendencies tracing shapes in the dirt. When her family was interned during World War II by the US government (along with thousands of US citizens with Japanese heritage, following the bombing of US military base Pearl Harbor by the Japanese) her life was put on hold, but she made opportunity where she could find it. When she was prevented from becoming a teacher by anti-Japanese prejudice and laws, she studied art and became a sculptor, often weaving cheap found material and wire. Her public artworks and her art education advocacy made her chosen home city, San Francisco, a more beautiful place, and her sculptures are now auctioned for millions, and exhibited around the world. 

Also available on SpotifyApple PodcastsRadioPublicPocket CastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and Acast. You can download the transcript, created by Rachel Pronger, here.

Show notes:

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Dead Ladies Show #31: Angela Carter, Ruth Asawa, and Margaret & Frances Macdonald!

It’s almost time for our next show, and the last before our summer break! Next Thursday, 9 June, join our guest presenters, writer LEON CRAIG and drag artiste AUDREY NALINE, along with our beloved podcast presenter SUSAN STONE, to learn about four women who created things of beauty. All held together by your favourite co-hosts, FLORIAN DUIJSENS and KATY DERBYSHIRE. Join us outside in the ACUD yard as the night sets in, celebrating lives dedicated to the arts.

As always, presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €7 or €4 reduced entry. We have limited space, so please book in advance via Eventbrite. 2G entry only – geimpft or genesen.

Generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 7.30 pm, so come on time to get a good seat in the courtyard!

Angela Carter From the Fay Godwin Archive at the British Library

ANGELA CARTER went from journalism for the Croydon Advertiser to award-winning feminist fiction and groundbreaking essays. In her 51 years she wrote nine novels, five short story collections, several children’s books and countless essays and articles. She spent two years living in Japan and translated two books of fairy stories, but arguably her greatest contribution to British literature was the dark 1979 collection that turned folk and fairy tales a scarlet shade of gothic: The Bloody Chamber.

MARGARET & FRANCES MACDONALD were sisters who studied at the Glasgow School of Art in the early 1890s, becoming two of the most influential figures in the conception of Art Nouveau. They co-signed much of their early work, sometimes forgetting which of them had done what. Their art spanned from nude paintings to metalwork to furniture design, all of it for sale rather than a mere hobby. Sadly, they have been largely overlooked, but there’s no time like the present to rediscover them.

RUTH ASAWA was born to Japanese parents in California, and interned as a teenager during WWII. Prevented from becoming a teacher by anti-Japanese prejudice and laws, she studied art and became a sculptor, often weaving cheap found material and wire. From the 1960s she was commissioned to make public art and became known as the “fountain lady” in San Francisco, where she lived. She was a passionate and successful advocate for arts education and had six children. “Sculpture is like farming,” she said. “If you just keep at it, you can get quite a lot done.”