If you’ve recently passed through the ambulance entrance of the critical care ward at OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital you may have noticed the colorful origami cranes hanging overhead. The cranes displayed at Doernbecher number roughly 5,000. The installation, CraneAge, constitutes just one third of an effort by local artist Patrice Demmon. The other two-thirds hang at the Mark Woolley Gallery at Pioneer Place Mall downtown.
According to Japanese, Chinese, and Korean tradition, cranes represent good fortune and longevity. After World War II, a young child diagnosed with leukemia sought to fold a flock of 1,000 cranes in hopes of returning to good health, happiness, and world of eternal peace—a practice known as senbazuru. She died before she was able to fold 1,000, but her classmates finished the task in her honor.
In these traditions, it is common to place flocks of 1,000 folded cranes at shrines and temples. Chains of folded cranes are often placed around the necks of those suffering from an illness. The gesture represents a prayer for recovery, a wish for happiness, and a hope for sympathy and peace.
The intention of Demmon’s installation is no different. The medical team at Doernbecher and OHSU saved her son’s life in 1984. They saved her grandson’s life in 2009. Two other small children who are dear to Demmon are regular patients at Doernbecher as well. “Oh flock of heavenly cranes/Cover my child with your wings,” reads a popular Japanese poem.
While dedicated to the hospitalized children of the world, CraneAge is “meant to emphasize the celebration of peace, to promote a world without war, for all of the children of our planet,” says Demmon.
“It is my hope that these bright origami birds in some way help to promote mankind’s paramount need and desire for peace,” remarks Demmon. “The wellbeing of all of our children—and all of the children of the world—is at stake.”
“My 15,167—and counting!—cranes are meant to be a quiet, beautiful, hopeful nudge toward a world that recognizes that.”
— Mary Locke
Above, artist Patrice Demmon embraces her work. Photo by Tim Jewett.