Isabella Kirkland’s Nova series focuses on species of flora and fauna that are new to scientific literature within the last 20 years. The number of species that remain “undiscovered” is difficult to estimate. Many scientists believe that of all living things on earth, perhaps only 10 to 15 percent have been given a Latin name and assigned a place in the larger picture of evolution.
Each of the four canvases in this series depicts a different layer of a typical montane rainforest: forest floor, understory, canopy, and emergent, or topmost, layer. While the plants and animals shown in the paintings are rainforest denizens, they are from many different parts of the world and would never be seen together in real life. The ecosystems pictured are thus idealized scenes, existing only in the imagination. In general, the accurate representation of recently discovered flora and fauna is difficult. Often the only people with clear images and knowledge of a new species are the describing scientists themselves; their descriptions, specimens, and drawings, as well as the work of wildlife artists and photographers, have served as references for the renderings of the species included here.