Posted by: Dan | May 6, 2009

Tension Between Species Discovery and Extinction Reflected in Art

From SEED Magazine comes a short item that catches my sense of biophilia: Once Out of Nature: “Isabella Kirkland’s life-size paintings of exotic, recently discovered species capture a world caught between the joys of discovery and the threat of imminent loss.”

Artist Isabella Kirkland’s meticulous oil paintings revisit this bittersweet tension between discovery and loss. Each life-size panel in her ongoing NOVA series includes dozens of species, from mammals and birds to insects and plants, all of which have been discovered by science in the past 20 years. NOVA: Understory (2007) depicts a sunlit paradise filled with 58 of these exotic new species, from the Panay cloudrunner to the sharp-snouted bush frog of Borneo, all reflected in a detailed taxonomic key. Understory is a celebration of biodiversity and a tribute to the enlightening power of science, but there’s a snake in the garden. Several continents’ worth of species appear crammed together, predators beside prey, ominously evoking the untenable concentration of species into dwindling islands of habitat. Kirkland’s previous series, TAXA, memorialized species endangered or driven to extinction by human activities. Understory prompts us to ask, will these species be next?

The resulting art, pictured at right, is both aesthetically beautiful and informative – hinting at both how much we do not know about the full repertoire of life and how fragile it is.


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