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Paper cranes honor fallen soldiers

By Jesse Campbell (

Article Published: Jul. 3 | Modified: Jul. 3
Paper cranes honor fallen soldiers

Artist Hunter Levinsohn takes her time in setting a paper crane, which is part of a larger display that commemorates soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Photos by Jesse Campbell

At the beginning of President George W. Bush’s second term in office, Hunter Levinsohn had some serious apprehensions about the next four years and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a form of protest and to commemorate those soldiers who lost their lives in the War on Terror, Levinsohn, of Hillsborough, began clipping the first two pages from a section of The New York Times that included a column, “The Names of the Dead.”

Everyday for the next four years, Levinsohn would set aside time in her busy day to collect the pages of the paper that included news from the war and the names of American soldiers who were killed in combat.

When time permitted, Levinsohn began carefully folding the newspaper pages into elegant origami cranes. By the time she was finished, she had hand crafted 1,461 origami birds.

“This started out as my angst of the Bush administration’s second term,” Levinsohn said. “My plan was on the day that Obama was inaugurated, I would rent a place and set them all out (on display). It was to be a celebration of something new and to let go of something old.”

Levinsohn said she chose the crane to convey her message because the animal is a symbol of “longevity, luck and peace.” The symbolic crane was also used in a special children’s memorial for the lives lost at Hiroshima, Japan, where the first atomic bomb was dropped on a civilian population. The names of the soldiers killed were also written onto the wings of the cranes, Levinsohn said.

Before retiring the cranes permanently — and allowing the nature of decomposition to take its effect — Levinsohn wanted to display the paper cranes one more time.

After visiting close friend Susi Lieff at her summer home in the Tater Hill community last year, Levinsohn became awestruck by the area’s natural beauty and knew she had found a new venue to display her works of art.

For much of Wednesday afternoon, Lieff, Levinsohn and their close friends set the paper cranes out in the shape of winding and twisting maze for neighbors in the community to walk through, while quietly reflecting on the lives lost to war.

Levinsohn said she chose a labyrinth to display the cranes because it is a “symbolic space you enter to become contemplative and more peaceful.”

“It doesn’t matter what you think about the war, but this is a tribute to those who gave their lives and limbs, so we have a debt to these people,” Levinsohn said. “Whether you are liberal, conservative or whatever, these are people who did something they believed in, and they did it for their country.”

Lieff, a fan and champion of Levinsohn’s work, welcomed the opportunity to showcase the cranes from the front lawn of her mountain vacation home.

“Her art isn’t just the ‘beautiful mountains’ or ‘pretty flowers’ or something that you just look at and feel happy about,” Lieff said. “Her art is provocative. Hunter’s art is a way for her to express herself and make others think.”

Lieff and Levinsohn hope visitors of the display took away something meaningful when they walked through the maze of cranes and thought about the conflicts.

“This is something that is a national issue,” Lieff said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are pro or against the war. This is just something to mark what happened and to acknowledge it. We would like people to walk the labyrinth and think of the people who gave their lives and what that means.”

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