Beginning in the late 1960s, Asawa received many commissions to make public sculptures and fountains. These works can be found in San Francisco, San Jose, and other places in Northern California. For some of the works, Asawa drew upon her life-long interest and experimentation with paper-folding, also known as origami.
As a child, Asawa studied origami at the Japanese Cultural School she attended on Saturdays. In college, her teacher Josef Albers assigned design problems in which students transformed paper from two dimensions (flat) to three dimensions (3-D) by folding it.
Commissions such as the Hyatt Fountain on Union Square and the Japanese American Internment Memorial owe their existence to her work as an arts activist in public schools. For these works, she used baker’s clay — a simple, easy-to-make, non-toxic dough which she mixed for thousands of children over the years — and cast the finished baker’s clay designs in bronze. These large public commissions gave Asawa a chance to experiment with new materials and news way of using familiar materials. These are some examples of Asawa’s public art.
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