If Wishes Were

A cloud of one thousand paper cranes counterbalances a heavy rock in a physical manifestation of hope.

If Wishes Were is inspired by the true story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Sadako Sasaki was two years old when Allied forces dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima where she and her family lived. Inundated with radiation, she was diagnosed with leukemia at age eleven. While Sadako was in the hospital, her best friend folded her a golden crane and reminded her of the Japanese legend that if you fold a thousand paper cranes, you will be granted a wish. In her hope for healing and peace, Sadako began to fold cranes in earnest out of any paper she could find, from medicine bottle labels to wrapping paper. When she died a year later, her mother gave some cranes to her friends and buried the rest with her.

Today, cranes live on as a symbol of peace at the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima, where thousands of visitors bring paper cranes in a gesture that echoes the monument’s inscription: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.”

If Wishes Were balances a mobile of one thousand origami cranes against a rock. It comments on the nature of our wishes, that they simultaneously weigh us down and lift us up, that they’re often unreasonable or unattainable, but they give us the hope that sustains us.  

About half of the cranes contain a handwritten wish on the reverse side of the paper from which they were folded. The process of folding cranes was meditative and prayer-like. Wishes as seemingly trivial as “I want a puppy” appear next to ones as grave as “I hope my dad doesn’t have cancer” and carry the same physical weight.

About one-fifth of the cranes were folded by friends, volunteers, and acquaintances, and their support in this project serves as a reminder that our wishes can’t be realized without the help and kindness of others.