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Ruth Asawa: An Artist Takes Shape

Available March 2024

Sam Nakahira

Brave, unconventional, and determined, Ruth Asawa let nothing stop her from living a life intertwined with art. 

Renowned for her innovative wire sculptures, Japanese American artist Ruth Asawa (1926–2013) was a teenager in Southern California when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. Japanese Americans on the West Coast were forced into camps. Asawa’s family had to abandon their farm, her father was incarcerated, and she and the rest of her family were sent to a detention center, and later to a concentration camp in Arkansas. Asawa nurtured her dreams of becoming an artist while imprisoned and eventually made her way to the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina.

This graphic biography by Sam Nakahira, developed in consultation with Ruth Asawa’s youngest daughter, Addie Lanier, chronicles the genesis of Asawa as an artist—from the horror of Pearl Harbor to her transformative education at Black Mountain College to building her life in San Francisco, where she would further develop and refine her groundbreaking wire sculptures.

Asawa never sought fame, preferring to work on her own terms: for her, art and life were one. Featuring lively illustrations and a dozen photographs of Asawa’s artwork, this graphic retelling of her young adult years demonstrates the transformative power of making art.

Sam Nakahira is a comic artist and cultural worker from Los Angeles. She makes comics about overlooked histories, the natural world, dreams, and more.

“A beautiful tribute to a groundbreaking artist that highlights the intimate humanity of Asawa’s work. Nakahira’s masterful cartooning takes readers on Asawa’s lifelong journey from a childhood behind barbed wire fences to adulthood transforming wire into art, a parallel impossible to ignore.”
—Kiku Hughes, author of Displacement

"Ruth Asawa: An Artist Takes Shape is a richly detailed recounting of the artist's life. It's so full of clearly conveyed scenes and stories that even those who are familiar with Asawa are sure to learn more. Obviously a labor of love, the book is true to the spirit of the woman who inspired it."
—Andrea D'Aquino, author of A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa

“A lovingly crafted story about the early, formative years of a great sculptor—covering both the hardships and the joys that helped shape Ruth Asawa into the artist we remember her as today.”
—Melanie Gillman, author of As the Crow Flies

“A tender and thoughtful rendering of an important artist’s life. Sam Nakahira uses the power and beauty of comics to its fullest to immerse you in the mind and genius of Ruth Asawa. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again!”
Tillie Walden, Eisner Award-winning cartoonist and illustrator

112 pages
7 x 9 inches
13 color photographs and b/w drawings throughout
ISBN 978-1-947440-09-8 

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Publications