There was a bit of a kerfuffle this week after photos from Gwyneth Paltrow’s new Montecito home were featured in Architectural Digest *and all over the internet. The Goop maven is seated on a beautiful couch in a beautiful room with a gorgeous hanging sculpture floating next her beautiful self. Those in the know believed the sculpture to be a Ruth Asawa sculpture, which are rare, in high demand, and extremely expensive. So the game of wondering how Gwyneth scored one was set into motion – and is summarized nicely by the LA Times here. In the end, the sculpture turned out to be a “knock-off”, but according to a friend who knows the secondary artist, DLisa Creager, these copies were sanctioned by the estate. Hmmm, really? I think it’s more likely that Creager learned the technique from an Asawa-sanctioned class (which were a thing, but have been discontinued) and proceeded to make her “own” art.
What is clear (and much more interesting) from this little internet moment is that getting to know one of California’s iconic artists is a wonderful idea. Take a cruise through the official Ruth Asawa website which elegantly provides a full lesson in Asawa’s life and art.
Here’s a quick overview of her fascinating life: Asawa (1926-2013) was detained as a young woman at Japanese internment camp for eighteen months, and when released went onto a formative arts education at the brief-lived Black Mountain College, studying under Josef Albers and Buckminster Fuller. It was in New Mexico, years later, that she learned to form chicken wire into the shapes that became her signature. Asawa co-founded an arts collective that was active in over 50 schools in the San Francisco region, and maintained a lifelong commitment to arts education.
The Asawa pictured here is on the third floor of the BCAM building at LACMA: you can read more about LACMA’s acquisition of Untitled (S.027) here. Best of all, Asawa’s sculptures wave gently in the air as if animated and fully alive.