Isabella Kirkland


Disability related to destruction of grey matter of spinal cord resulting in dysaesthesia of C5-C6 dermatome with minimal motor movement.

I carefully research each of the species in my pictures before I paint them. By studying the original scientific description of the species and whatever preserved materials possible, I come to know each intimately. I make information on the evolution, economic value, food web involvement, predator/prey relationships, etc., available to viewers who wish to delve beyond the surface of the pictures. I am trying to preserve, in the most stable materials, images of biota that may not survive this next century.

My injury was caused in 2004 by a bizarre, tropical round worm that ate part of my spinal cord. Neural presentations of this organism are so rare in the United States that no doctors are aware of symptoms or treatments. I was forced to do some rapid research on the subject of neural damage from parasitic infection in humans. In the end, I developed a grudging respect for the Gnathostomatidae, the genus of my worm, which cloak themselves in the host’s own proteins in order to confound detection by the host’s immune system.

When I first began to recover from the chord injury and associated meningitis, I could barely draw a line. Four years later now, I have recovered almost full motor control of my right hand. Sadly, what I was left with is constant, 24/7, neuropathic pain in the upper right quadrant of my body with the worst sensation on the hand and wrist. Those two places feel as if they were in constant contact with a very hot pan. Some days are simply lost to fighting for control of the pain. I have no desire to use this change in my physical being as subject matter. I am very much engaged in my continued exploration of bio-diversity through the means of painted illusions, many thin layers of oil and pigment.

The most profound connection of this affliction to my work is that when I paint, I do not hurt. That creative flow-state one reaches when one’s work is going well is a sweet refuge from the constant stream of painful sensations.

Canopy - 2008 Forest Floor - 2008 Understory - 2007 Gone - 2004 Astraptes Complex - 2005
oil on canvas on panel
4' x 5'
Forest Floor
oil on canvas on panel
6' x 3'
oil on canvas on panel
4' x 5'
oil & alkyd on canvas on panel
3' x 4'
Astraptes Complex
oil on panel
30" x 36"