Hope, 2007, a hanging sculpture of origami cranes, is made from the pages of The White Man’s Bible, a white supremacist book that had recently been taken out of circulation by the Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN). I was invited to create it for the exhibition, “Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate,” which was organized as a joint project between MHRN and the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, Montana. My goal was to use the texts in a way that might hint at a lightness of spirit and bring some joy. The height is approximately 5 feet.
Red Crowned Crane, a triptych of the crane folding steps, is approximately 19 inches by 39 inches.
Copyright © Clarissa Sligh, 2007 artwork and photograph of the triptych.
Copyright © Holter Museum of Art, 2007, photograph of the sculpture by Kurt Keller.
Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate, Holter Museum of Art, Helena, MT, 2008, cover (illus.), p14 (illus.), 22, 24.
RAHOWA! . . . Racial Holy War!
In December of 2003, a disgruntled member of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) contacted the Montana Human Rights Network . He said he was leaving the racist movement and had access to internal Church documents and a large supply of books the Church sold to support itself. He wanted to meet with the Network staff.
The Church of the Creator came onto the national stage in 1999 when Ben Smith, a dedicated follower of the WCOTC, went on a shooting spree in Illinois, killing two people and wounding nine. His motive? Plain and simple, hate. He was imbued with the racist doctrine espoused by the Church’s founder Ben Klassen. Though he is dead now, Klassen’s books have served to indoctrinate WCOTC followers across the country. Over the years WCOTC has disseminated literature in communities across the state in an effort to recruit new members.
WCOTC has fallen on hard times due to law enforcement response to the criminal activities of the group. Klassen’s books provide the ideological glue that holds this small group of activists together. More importantly, the books provide a source of revenue and are advertised in racist publications across the country for $10.00 apiece.
When the Network was contacted by the second in command, of the Northwest COTC, it was learned that he wanted to sell the Network the entire contents of a storage unit in Superior for a small fee. After acquiring the books, the Network then had the problem of what to do with the materials? It still had thousands of volumes. They began looking for an opportunity to reach people in a different way and to involve artists in presenting issues raised by hate groups, bigotry, and intolerance. As a result, the Network and the Holter Museum of Art began to work together.