“There is an antique quality of the work I do. I think of this realistic style as a warp thread I chose to pick up and work with after our centuries’ long hiatus from realistic painting.  Accurate descriptive depiction of plants and animals has served the biological sciences practically since the invention of the printing press.  The lion’s share of this service has been for the purposes of diagnostic differentiation. Post Linnaeus, scientific illustration has functioned as a tool of speciation: often highlighting those traits or markers that signify a particular species, while downplaying less defining visual characteristics. 

I choose to apply a similar accuracy to a different service: to the building of an analog visual record of what we are going to lose in the coming centuries. I want the images I build of select, representative species to stand witness to their own loss…..just as Guernica stood witness to a political massacre, and the painting, The Raft of the Medusa, bore witness to the sinking of a naval vessel.

Using old methods I hope to make a meaningful set of iconic images that record, identify, represent, and bear witness to the fate of individual species. We are all inundated with digital data and visuals while simultaneously maddened by the speed with which our own digital records become outdated and obsolete by new operating software.  Printing inks are notoriously short lived as you can easily see if you open an illustrated book from the 1950’s: the colors have decayed in just a half century.   

I have painted these biota as accurately as I have found possible, researching each extensively in natural history collections and herbaria, using methods and materials of the highest conservatorial standards. I paint in the time-tested medium of oils so that, assuming the paintings survive the ravages of time, these works will stand mute witness to some of the life forms lost during this Anthropocene Era.”

- Isabella Kirkland
October, 2017


California Academy of Sciences
Fall 2012 San Francisco Art Institute, Visiting Faculty, Interdisciplinary Studies, Graduate Division
2012 Science Advisor, Revive & Restore, Long Now Foundation
2005 Visiting Summer Faculty, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA


Art, Design and Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
Bill and Weslie Janeway, New York, NY
Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison WI
Douglas Carlston and Kathy Williams, San Rafael, CA
Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation Collection, Jersey City, NJ
Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
John and Pam McCosker, Mill Valley, CA
Jonathan and Diana Rose, Garrison Institute, New York, NY
Naomi Pierce and Andrew Berry, Boston, MA
New York Public Library, New York, NY
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Peter and Mimi Buckley, Berkeley, CA
Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton NY
Queens Museum, Queens, NY
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
Richmond Center for Visual Arts, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Spencer Art Museum, Lawrence, KS
Steven Katz, New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA
Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
University Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA
Vera List Center, The New School, New York, NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ