Life Cycles: Isabella Kirkland's Taxa
January 24–June 15, 2014
Gallery 321

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.