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What's in a crane?

Clarissa Sligh: "Am I Safe?" and Fumiko Kimura: "One. Dot. Sumi" at UPS

“Year of the Rooster,” sumi ink by Fumiko Kimura. Photo courtesy Kittredge Gallery

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More than 6,000 folded paper cranes by nationally known artist Clarissa Sligh hang from the ceilings and cling to the walls of Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound. Many of the cranes are made from the pages of white supremacist books, plus there are dramatic black-and-white photographs of people who are or might be the targets of white supremacist hate, and close-up, high-contrast photos of some of the individual cranes.

The show is called "Am I Safe?"

These works transform hate speech into artworks of calm contemplation, as stated in a press release that goes on to say, "Her artists' books, photos and prints examine personal identities and fears in an unequal world." Some of the artists' books are displayed in a companion show in Collins Memorial Library on the UPS campus.

Sligh's work balances the conceptual and the aesthetic, the symbolic and the literal. In Japan, the crane is a mystical creature believed to live for a thousand years. In Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures, cranes represent good fortune and longevity. Juxtaposing them with photos of hate-targeted people is the height of irony.

Four clusters of cranes of many colors hang from the ceiling in the middle of the gallery. They are black, white, silver and other colors, and are strung together with many colored beads. The black ones are dull, or matt. Others are shiny. Close examination reveals that the white ones are made from maps. Compositionally the various colors group together -- whites together, blacks together, and so forth -- in patterns that play off against each other within and against each hanging group like a kind of bizarre dance of different colored dancers.

Against one wall there is a lineup of black-and-white photographs of multicultural faces with the artist's face near the center, and against another wall there is a line of photographs of people of color behind a scrim of hanging cranes in black, white and gold; the white ones in this group are made from pages of hate literature.

Against another wall there is a large offset lithograph and digital collage called "Women Bring the People." It shows pictures of women in various configurations. The central figure is a naked woman collaged of images of possibly the same and possibly different women put together in such a way as to make it look like she's been folded in half. I can't begin to imagine the intended meaning of this image, but I can say it is disturbing at best and horrifying at worst.

Sligh's installation fills the larger front gallery. The smaller back gallery presents a show of sumi drawings, paintings and collages by local artist Fumiko Kimura, founder of Puget Sound Sumi Artists. Kimura's show is called "One. Dot. Sumi." It includes lovely and delicate pictures of landscapes, flowers, birds and insects in a lyrical painting style based on the ancient art of calligraphy.

Clarissa Sligh: "Am I Safe?" and Fumiko Kimura: "One. Dot. Sumi," 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday; noon-5 p.m., Saturday, through Sept. 23, artist's talk 5 p.m., Sept. 13, Kittredge Gallery, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701,

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