The Wounded Bird
Her back is torn - completely open, her organs are exposed. And she has lost her feet…
Inside her head, is a little nest. A tiny broken egg that was her brain, takes refuge in the bottom, while overhead, another egg, a new brain coming, is just beginning to hatch…
When her body is lifted from the base, a small silver and sapphire feather on 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 tragically in servitude. Her primary ovary produces little pearl eggs and a hatch on the 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. For 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, sorrow and bitterness, and how what hurts us can sometimes become all that is left of our hearts…
But, while she was originally constructed as an expression of my own painful experience, through the making of this piece, this little dying bird was to reveal 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 probably 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.
My little dying bird that is all of us, was now being defined by the decimation of the manta rays, with the pleasure of our own procreation, based upon the unpardonable destruction of seahorses.
But next to this wounded bird lies a single egg. Inside, from a pearl that was created by an oyster’s need to defend its fragile body, lies a path to redemption: for a new, more beautiful heart is just beginning to form….