A fish sculpture's multi-colored scales represent all the trials and blessings a Kamiakin High School senior has experienced.
Morgan Haberlack's faith in God and love of art are in Rainbow Fish, but so are the death of a great-grandmother she cared for and the year she spent homeless.
"We all look at someone and judge them from the outside," the 18-year-old said. "Rainbow Fish's colors represent everything I am on the inside."
The sculpture was one of 16 winning pieces in the state superintendent's annual student art show, earning a state Board of Education Award. She'll be honored by the board when it meets in Kennewick this week and receive $200 to add the piece to a permanent state collection of student art.
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"I'm just so blessed," Morgan said.
Her foot-tall clay sculpture was created in an advanced class taught by Kamiakin art teacher Victoria Gravenslund.
The assignment specifically involved a tropical fish theme. Morgan said she struck upon her idea after recalling a book she read in kindergarten called The Rainbow Fish by Swiss author Marcus Pfister.
Morgan's fish features a serene gaze, and flowing, strandlike fins.
Each of Gravenslund's students had to submit one piece to an initial district art show. Morgan's sculpture advanced to the regional level and then the state show, which includes 122 pieces from across the state, Gravenslund said.
"It's very competitive because it starts with thousands and whittles down to a handful," Gravenslund said.
Morgan said she's been on her own since she was 15. She said she cared for her great-grandmother until her death and then moved in with her grandmother. But that living arrangement didn't work out and she became homeless, first living on the street before ending up at a shelter.
She is living with another family as she works to finish school. Morgan has two credits to finish after the spring semester and she'll then begin a yearlong internship at New Vintage Church off Columbia Center Boulevard in south Richland.
Just as her life has been bitter and sweet, Morgan said the state board's selection of her piece gave her mixed feelings.
"I kind of hoped I didn't win state because I'd had a few offers (for Rainbow Fish)," she said laughing and later adding, "It would be nice for (the sculpture) to stay here."
Morgan wants to attend a Bible college so she can eventually become a pastor.
But she doesn't plan to abandon her art, which includes work in other media and often has natural or biblical themes.
"Most pastors don't work full time," she said.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; email@example.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald