Life Cycles: Isabella Kirkland’s TAXA


Collection, 2006 – A multitude of reasons compel us to collect these fifty-six plants and animals. The desire for knowledge-and to possess the objects of our knowledge-is one such reason; the pursuit of beauty is another. Both explain the surging popularity of insect and butterfly collections by amateurs and scientific institutions beginning in the late-19th century. In still other cases, mere bones and assorted relics from creatures like the great while shark are collected as souvenirs or sports trophies.


Back 2006 (L) – The forty-eight species in Back have all rebounded from borderline extinction through sustained attempts to reintroduce them to their original habitats, and at times through sheer resilience. A bald eagle’s egg, seen toward the print’s bottom left edge, is an apt symbol for this bird’s re-emergence since the 1970s. Thanks to government agencies, as well as organizations like the St. Louis-based World Bird Sanctuary, bald eagles are no longer an uncommon sight in the skies over Missouri and across the United States.

Gone 2006 ( R ) – The sixty-eight species portrayed in Gone have all been thought extinct since the mid-19th century, some just in the last few decades. Tragically, this is often the result of human intervention, as with the great auk, represented here by its egg. This large penguin-like bird was famously over hunted to extinction in the 1840’s. Yet science must also accommodate uncertainty. The hula painted frog, native only to Israel, was also thought extinct until 2011 when it unexpectedly reappeared, prompting a rare but not impossible charge in its status.


Trade 2006 – The sixty-eight species depicted in Trade command such high prices that they are also attractive targets for smugglers selling them on black markets. Many of these are animals trapped and sold as pets, such as the lion tamarin from Brazil, or the day geckos of Madagascar. Flowers like the slipper orchid-prized for its especially long petals- are also a valued commodity. Commercial demand for such species has left them vulnerable to the effects of theft, overconsumption, depletion, and habitat destruction.


Descendant 2006 (L) – Native to North American countries and territories, the sixty-one plants and animals in Descendants are all declining in number. Many of them, like the hawksbill sea turtle, are classified as critically endangered; a few species are even presumed to be extinct. The Oahu tree snail, for instance, is one of more than seven hundred different species of the land snails once found throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Today more than fifty-two of these native snail species are considered extinct, having largely succumbed to pest control practices.

Ascendant 2006 ( R ) – Colonization of the New World brought a wealth of species to the Americas from around the globe. The seventy-four species in Ascendant are all non-native, but they are also thriving as their populations continue to grow- often at the expense of indigenous flora and fauna. The Indian mongoose, for example, was originally imported to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1880s to control sky-rocketing numbers of another invasive species: rats. Instead, the mongoose has had tragic consequences for rare local bird colonies.

All six prints are currently on view at the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM)

Provided by The Sidney S. and Sadie Cohen Print Purchase Fund

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