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 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 of the cranes to her friends and buried the rest with her. Today, Sadako’s cranes live on as a symbol of peace at the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima, where thousands of people 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 comments on the nature of our wishes, that they simultaneously weigh us down and lift us up. They are often unreasonable or unattainable, but they give us the optimistic hope that sustains us. It uses one thousand origami cranes to balance against a rock in mobile fashion. Almost one-half of the cranes contain a handwritten wish on the reverse side of the paper from which they were folded. In this way, the wish is manifested externally and physically, but is still internal and protected, since it exists only on the inside of the crane and will never be visible to others. The process of folding cranes was thoughtful and meditative, and many of the wishes are actually prayers. 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 weight. About one-fifth of the cranes were folded by friends, volunteers, and acquaintances, and their support in this project served as a reminder that our wishes can’t be realized without the help, prayers, and kindness of others.