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Wounded Bird

A Self Portrait


In 2015, it was finally revealed that my art practice had been exposing me to some of the many pollutants (lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium….) that contaminate our natural world.  


I suffered devastating neurological and metabolic damage - severe hearing loss, brain injury and crippling mental health injuries from which I will never recover. 


I had become this little bird with the catastrophic wound.  But then, in exchange, so many other things were to come into focus.  And I learned the value of my calamity.




The Wounded Bird





Her back is torn completely open and her organs are exposed.  And her feet have become detached…a fatal injury for a bird. 


Inside her head, her brain, is a little nest.   A tiny broken egg, takes refuge in the bottom, while overhead,

another egg, her new brain, is just beginning to hatch…


The two little egg/brains and the nest are constructed with sterling silver, moonstones, and an opal (symbolic of hope) for the exposed yolk of the little first brain.


When her body is lifted from the base, a small silver and sapphire feather in her back begins to quiver, as she quietly trembles in fear. 


She may then be opened and her organ structure, based on a raccoon skull, lifted out for closer examination.  


When the little fish that contains the trembling feather is removed, her tiny seashell kidneys are revealed on its reverse.


A digestive pathway leads from the crop at the top, through some red snapper teeth, and on to a gizzard  represented by some barnacles.


Her lungs have been constructed from two eroded and carved cowrie shells with delicate sterling silver mesh and garnets, reflecting their fragile internal structure. 


And her reproductive system is devised from a little seahorse, locked in servitude.  Her primary ovary produces little pearl eggs and the hatch on its side may be opened to reveal a single larger egg (black pearl) on its way through the system. 


But it is from her heart that flows her painful message.  It was formed on and around an actual spent bullet that was once given to me by a hunter.   


The heart’s vessels extend over the burst lead and brass surface of this cruel source of her injury, as she tells us of pain, and sorrow, and bitterness….and how what hurts us can sometimes become all that is left of our hearts.



This piece was originally intended to be an expression of my injury.


But in the end, this little dying bird revealed yet another gaping wound in the body of our beautiful biosphere - one which was to fill me with great sorrow, grief and regret.  


She was constructed from fish gills. I found them in the herb shops of Chinatown. I saw them stuffed in a jar and trusted that somewhere, a fish had been eaten and the gills set aside for medicinal purpose.  But when I tried to ask which fish they came from, the lack of any common language left my queries unanswered.


It was some years later that I stepped back into the shops and found the gills were no longer available. They had become CITES listed.  My heart sank. What had I participated in?  It was a difficult research as I had only the gills to make identity. But with the help of an ichthyologist, and the context of the purchase, we were able to determine that they were manta ray gills.


I was broken hearted. 


These poor, majestic creatures were being fished to extinction for the sole purpose of providing a treatment considered dubious, even from within the Chinese Medicine community. 


And so it was also true of the little seahorse whose remains were now bound to form the structure of her reproductive system.  Indeed, these poor little sea monsters were being annihilated for their perceived value as a kind of Viagra.  


So my little dying bird that was to be for all of us, was now being defined by the decimation of the manta rays and the unpardonable destruction of seahorses. 




But this little wounded bird has, in hope, laid a last single egg.  


Inside, from a pearl that was created by an oyster’s need to defend its fragile body, lies a path to redemption, as a new and beautiful little heart is just beginning to form….

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