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Isabella Kirkland Text


How did you get to painting political images?
I have always been fascinated by and enchanted with the natural world and have flirted with the science of it all my life, including a stint doing bird taxidermy for museums. Intimate awareness of the fragility and sentience of all of life on this planet makes better people, I think, ones who might weigh their daily actions and choices against the big yardstick of evolution. I want my pictures to help make people think in these longer range terms.

Do you have other personal involvement in this arena?
So far I have been able to give use of my images to organizations whose ecological efforts and views I share such as the UN Conference on Biodiversity, Missouri Botanic Gardens, and a group called All Species.

How is your research and painting process structured?
Each painting has a bibliography pertinent to its subject: Endangerment, Invasiveness, Trade Value, etc. It takes me several months to develop the list of species to include, find descriptions and measurements (everything is painted at life-size), and photograph specimens. A month or more of drawing, and then finally I spend 3-6 months painting.

What are some future projects?
Currently I am researching three subjects that are closely entwined: "Gone" (extinct since 1800), "Resurrected" (refound or brought back from the brink), and "New" (to western science since the enactment of the Endangered Species Act).

Who are your favorite three artists?
My current favorite artists are all from the 17th century. Georg Dionysus Ehret used the page in the most modern way in his botanical paintings. Jan Davidzson de Heem was the ultimate master of the still life form I study. And Rachael Ruysch, daughter of the greatest anatomist of the 17th century and student of de Heem, managed to paint flower pictures of breathtaking perfection at a time when few women were in any trades, and she also raised 10 children.


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