Jillian Tamaki on Ruth Asawa

The cartoonist and illustrator explores the life and work of a trailblazing American artist.
Jillian Tamaki May 18, 2021

Ruth Asawa’s accomplishments as an artist speak for themselves,” said Jillian Tamaki, “but learning about her lifelong devotion to teaching and arts advocacy touched me deeply. Her relationship to education as both a student and teacher, and how it informed her work, is what inspired this comic.” A Toronto-based cartoonist and illustrator, Tamaki is the author of seven books, including the short comic story collection Boundless and, with her cousin Mariko Tamaki, the graphic novel This One Summer, which won a Governor General’s Award and a Caldecott Honor. Fortunately, in taking on Asawa’s life for this second installment of Magazine’s Illustrated Lives series, she had excellent source material. “Asawa’s life and art practice, the early years at least, were well-recorded by the photographer Imogen Cunningham, who was a family friend,” Tamaki said. “They are such iconic images—it made me think about the role photography and documentation plays in the legacy of a modern artist.”