Isabella Kirkland, American, born 1954; Descendant from the portfolio "Taxa," 2006; inkjet prints, published by Feature, Inc.; each: 34 1/16 x 25 1/2 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, The Sidney S. and Sadie Cohen Print Purchase Fund 158:2011.5, .1, .2 © Isabella Kirkland. Courtesy of Feature Inc., New York
Isabella Kirkland's Taxa
portfolio merges art with the natural sciences to convey a powerful message about the state of the environment in the 21st century. These six inkjet prints share the same thoughtful arrangement and attention to detail that characterizes 17th-century Dutch still-life painting. Kirkland repurposes this venerable genre to document contemporary environmental growth and decline. She also takes advantage of up-to-date digital printing technologies to achieve a lush, velvety surface.
Organized into three pairings, the Taxa
portfolio groups together species mutually affected by insidious processes of change set in motion by various human activities: from shifting patterns of settlement to the commercial trade—often illegal—of wild specimens. Taxa
opens with two prints that contemplate ongoing population trends brought about by New World colonization: whereas Descendant
features currently endangered species, many of them presumed extinct, Ascendant
highlights non-native species that have come to prosper, in part by displacing indigenous ones. Altogether, Kirkland documents more than four hundred species of flora and fauna found—or once found—throughout the world. The result is a compelling meditation on the fragility of ecological life cycles, and not least of all our own effects on them.
The exhibition is curated by Leah Chizek, research assistant in the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.