Art Inspiration

Lethal Birdbath

Written by Sven Eberlein

The photo above is the Grand Prize winner of the Visuals & Voices Eco-Art, Photography, Poetry and Writing Contest for Bay Area Middle & High School Students. I thought this amazing piece of art by Rhianna Hixon, a 12th grader at the School of the Arts in San Francisco was worth some extra-regional exposure.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, but here’s the judges’ comments:

This is a simply outstanding illustration. It is an exquisite drawing. The Escher-like morphing of the cormorant into the gas nozzle is beautifully done, and the timely nature of the ecological message, given the current catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, couldn’t be more on target.

One of the things that I think a lot of us have been struggling with is to put into words the sheer magnitude of the disaster in the Gulf. Personally, I’ve been working on some essays that would somehow process, integrate and explain the many layers and angles of this rippling ecological juggernaut, both intellectually and emotionally, but I find that I’m tying myself into a knot when I get too heady about it.

I’m angry but I don’t want to be blinded by anger. I’m devastated but I don’t want to lose hope and my love for life and all the beautiful creatures of this earth, including us humans. I’m cynical about capitalism and a political system that thrives on selfish- and wastefulness, but I don’t want to dismiss the potential for greater consciousness if we all keep working and fighting for it.

This is where art and music and poetry is one of the most powerful and cathartic channels to process the overwhelming onslaught of input, both externally and internally. What I like about Rhianna’s Lethal Birdbath is that it brings home so many of the complex issues and emotions tangled up in our human existence on this fragile planet, that it doesn’t have to explain or analyze a single thing. It’s very archetypal, and we all understand what it means, even though there will be many different interpretations of it.

I also love that this was created by a 12th grader, which gives me hope that there is a powerful and deeply tuned in generation coming of age that will be an important part of the solutions to our many problems. I look forward to working hard across generational, cross-cultural and any other lines toward a more enlightened human race that can live more humbly and in balance with the divine gifts provided by a truly magnificent yet oh so tender little round ball we get to live on.

Again, there is so much to say and I know we will all be saying a lot more things about this lethal birdbath in the coming weeks and months and years, but sometimes we can learn some things by listening — to the sun and the wind and the rain, to the oceans far and wide and in our hearts, to the birds and the bees and the fish in the seas. And to our youth, the children of our earth-mother and the guardians of our great soul secret that we are all part of One.

The first place winner in the poetry category is Reeling Destruction by Kelly How, Grade 12, of St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco, who makes a great case for the heavy impact of nearly weightless trinkets, and lodges the responsibility for the destruction of the planet “in our own back yard.”

Reeling Destruction

Hungry to possess,
impatient individuals shovel through
miscellaneous piles of
countless trinkets –
pens and key chains ringing
unnecessary bait
find shelter surrounding cash registers
adding to brown bag purchases.

Enlarged crimson sale signs –
CLEARENCE, 40% reductions, 75% off
reeling in hundreds,
thousands of naïve participants of
looking for a steal in

Made in China
reads every shirt –
pedestrians dismiss
child labor, human trafficking, putrid wages;
some, however, hand over Benjamin
instead of Jackson in an
attempt for social praising.
Yet, all buy, ignorant of damages to
planet earth and its inhibitors.

Emitting toxic fumes
factories destroy
producing infinite articles of
material possessions
resulting in millions of
tons of waste –
too soon will it lodge in
our own backyard.

About the author

Sven Eberlein

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  • The wisdom inherent in the expression of society’s youth is potent. There is such clarity and strength in their visions and words, and I hope these kids will continue the dialogue. Thank you for disseminating their wisdom into the adult world and fueling more soulful and meaningful discourse.

  • Thank you for this post, Sven. This Sat, June 26, we’ll be participating in Hands Across the Sand

    It’s an initiative that will involve people around the world — holding hands on their coastlines at noon in their time zone — in an effort to call attention to the importance of clean, renewable energy.

    I know that thousands of people will participate, but it’s feeling like small potatoes to me in light of what’s going on. Then again, if these amazing 12th graders felt like their efforts were small potatoes, they might never have contributed such thought-provoking and moving work.

    Hats off to them — and to you — for keeping this conversation going.

    • Barb, Hands across the Sand is a great way for us all to show how much we care about clean energy and making fundamental changes to the way we live. Even if it’s just symbolic, it’s a very powerful gesture. And it really seems like it’s catching on, I’ve heard about it from quite a few different sources. Time to head to the beach!