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EXPLORE: Isabella Kirkland

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"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." October 2017

Isabella Kirkland Egg Cases of the Nudibranches


Isabella Kirkland is an artist and an associate at the California Academy of Sciences who archives extinct, endangered, and new species. She uses methods from European still life painters, 18th and 19th century naturalists, and scientific illustration to explore the shifting states of permanence and impermanence in our world. Inspired by the belief that objects can be imbued with power, she transfers her meticulously researched observations of specimens into an imaginary bricolage that conjure hope and survival of the earth and all of its species. 

Artist Website


Social Media

Instagram: #isabellakirkland


Artist Talks, Reviews, and Articles 

Artist's Lecture at the Now Long Foundation. Overview of her past and current bodies of work.

Earth Island Journal Article Overview on Kirkland's work

The New York Times* review of exhibition Nova which documents newly discovered species.

* The New York Times online subscription required for access 

Traditions Present in Isabella Kirkland's Paintings 

Connections to other Naturalists Observing Transient Life


Maria Sibylla Merian

The Woman Who Made Science Beautiful

The Atlantic 2016



Else Bostelmann

In the Early 20th Century, the Department of Tropical Research Was Full of Glamorous Adventure 

Smithsonian Magazine 2017


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