Black Mountain Work

“I studied drawing and painting and we were encouraged to use whatever we could find. Since we didn’t have anything to work with, we worked with the leaves which were plentiful in North Carolina, the wild leaves. The dogwood leaves turned a brilliant red when the frost came.”

Asawa’s three years at Black Mountain College (1946-1949)  shaped her profoundly and gave her the courage to grow into an artist, wife, mother, activist and citizen of the universe. The college included all of the arts, architecture, literature, dance, mathematics, and music. Her most important mentor was the former Bauhaus teacher and artist, Josef Albers, who taught basic design. Albers recruited talented artists, often those with contrasting sensibilities, to come and spend a summer, semester or a year to broaden the students’ exposure to ways of seeing and working. It was a work-study community where faculty and students performed together, ate together, farmed and shared kitchen duties. There were no beginning or advanced courses. She was not awarded a degree. As Albers was fond of saying, “Art knows nothing about graduation.”

“Albers always discouraged us to make a line with black and then fill it in because it kills the interaction of color. He discouraged us from using black as a color. The interaction of two colors, say orange and green, butting up right next to each other, was more exciting.”


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