'Little Picasso' dedicates work to victim

Teenage U.S. artist inspired by death of 11-year-old girl in '95 Kobe quake


A painting by a U.S. teenager that was inspired by the tale of a young victim of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake will be donated to the victim’s hometown of Kobe today.

The painting, “Sunflower Tears,” was created by the celebrated 15-year-old painter Alexandra Nechita, who is referred to as a “little Picasso” in the United States, after she was reportedly inspired by the story of 11-year-old Haruka Kato.

Kato was one of the more than 6,400 people who lost their lives as a result of the Kobe earthquake.

A resident of the city’s Higashinada Ward, Kato, who would have started junior high that spring, was buried under the rubble of her house, which collapsed in the magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

After Kato’s death, sunflower seeds that she had fed her parrot sprouted up through the rubble.

Local residents began planting the new seeds in their own backyards and vacant lots.

The painting depicts a creature with human feet, bird wings and a sunflower-shaped head, with the word “Kobe” infused into the design. According to Nechita, her work was inspired by the desire to bring solace to the girl’s parents and to present a memorial to the victims of the temblor, which struck Kobe on the morning of Jan. 17, 1995.

“The smile in the painting reminds me of my daughter,” Mitsuko Kato, Haruka’s 51-year-old mother, said after she had seen the painting.

Nechita met with Kobe Mayor Kazutoshi Sasayama on Monday. The same day, she visited Haruka’s elementary school, where she attended classes and met with mothers.

The young artist was also set to take part in the memorial service for quake victims today, commemorating the sixth anniversary of the quake.