Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Conversation Peace

Not to be too specific, but my interest in origami can be traced back to the evening of April 15, 2001.

That evening, my then-boyfriend and I had plans to meet his arty VCU friends for drinks at Baja Bean, but he bowed out at the last minute because he hadn't finished his taxes (don't get me started). Mine, on the other hand, had long since been mailed off (it was the olden days, kids), so I figured I'd go solo.

It wasn't like I didn't know all of that arty crowd anyway.

The new face in the group belonged to a Peruvian sculptor who was doing a short residency at VCU and after being introduced, we settled down to happily converse for a couple of hours. He was a fascinating person with intriguing stories and since it was unlikely we'd ever see each other again, there was no reason not to talk about everything.

When I said goodbye, it was after a thoroughly satisfying evening talking to this man. End of story.

So you can imagine my surprise the following week when the VCU dean who'd brought the Peruvian into the bar that night shared that he had a gift for me from the artist who'd since returned home: a bronze-colored origami crab he'd crafted that night after meeting me.

It's an utterly amazing thing, this elaborate crab - complete with claws - folded from a single piece of paper. A gift from a man I'd never see again created for no other reason than to demonstrate his pleasure in the short time we'd spent talking.

These days, it occupies a place of honor atop my stereo receiver and invites conversation about origami. All of that's a roundabout way of saying of course I'm going to be interested in Lewis Ginter's outdoor exhibit of bronze, steel and aluminum origami, an invitation extended to me back in April, not to mention all the way from Japan.

Naturally, I'd said yes then and now we were finally making good on plans made while we were on different continents.

Given the heat and sun, I had no shame in bringing along my pink Victoria's Secret umbrella to act as a parasol as we made our way through the gardens. I wasn't the only one happy to carry her sun protection, either, which gives me hope that parasol pride is still growing.

Having the origami pieces scattered around the gardens all but ensured a haphazard path through them as we'd spot one in the distance and then have to try to figure out the best way to get there without missing anything along the way.

Given the heat, we also weren't shy about pausing at any shady bench we came to and letting the waves of sweaty humanity pass us by.

Artist Kevin Box and his collaborators - his wife, Jennifer, plus four origami masters - had managed to create metal sculptures that not only had the delicate detailing of folded paper, but also appeared to be as light as paper. Looking at a sculpture like "Flying Peace" (the most complicated origami crane ever folded) with its pleated wings, tail and head and legs stretched out behind it is to marvel at the minds and hands of artists inspired and brilliant enough to conjure up such a thing.

One of the simplest forms resembled nothing so much as a simple white folded paper boat set adrift in the middle of a pond. I felt cooler just looking at it.

We almost missed "Who Saw Who?" because it was tucked away in the children's garden, dangerously near the splish splash area rife with shrieking children. It was a tableau of an owl and a tiny mouse on a rock, each eyeing the other warily.

Yet again, we had to remind ourselves that the sculpture in front of us had begun life as a piece of folded paper. Truly amazing.

Looking at "Folding Planes," I was immediately reminded of the Air Force Memorial just outside of Washington, with its gracefully arcing folds reaching skyward. "White Bison" was exactly that, but my takeaway was learning that bison stand and face an oncoming storm, a fact I find unfathomable.

And if we were looking for a personal metaphor, there was a lot to be said for the wisdom of "Nesting Pair" and not just because of the beauty of two cast stainless steel cranes hovering above a cast bronze nest made from olive branches.

Because, you see, it gets even better: Most artwork is a self-portrait of some kind. This composition naturally emerged at a time in our lives when we were building a home together and discovering the value of compromise. ~ Kevin Box

Shoot, substitute "relationship" for "home" and "pleasure" for "value" and we're there.

As for my bronze crab, it's a daily reminder that you never know what might result from a great conversation. As for my origami-loving partner, ditto.

And as I was reminded afterward eating and drinking at Peter Chang's, if he can make me laugh, too, it's all over. P.S. It's all over.

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