The delicacy of Kate Street’s pencil drawings belie their sinister undertones: a garden of chimeric orchids flowering with skulls, intricate skeletons of birds perching on leaves, tuberous roots that are half heart and half honeycomb. Her installations, on the other hand, pull no punches. In Bird in the Hand II, disembodied hands clinically display the fragments of a dissected bird.
Street told London’s Timeout.com,
My interest in nature is how we like to classify it and manicure it and make it perfect. I like Dutch still lifes of flowers and animals because they are about the frozen moment. Everything is shown in the prime of life but it’s also about keeping decay at bay through artifice. (source)
That is powerfully reminiscent of Isabella Kirkland’s work. As I said in a review of her new NOVA series,
Is it a wonder cabinet, bearing witness to the marvels of nature, or a curiosity cabinet, glorifying logical order and the power of science? Perhaps it transcends both. Biological specimens inevitably decay and fade; art, on the other hand, can preserve not just the body in stunning detail, but also the spirit, grace, and emotional impact of biological forms. The birds in Kirkland’s painting, for example, will remain vital, eyes sparkling and plumage unfaded, when their living prototypes are long extinct.(source)
The difference between Kirkland’s meticulous representations of birds in their natural habitats and Street’s dissected, remixed birds is a matter of degree: they are different stages in the same taxidermic process of collection, dissection, and preservation, a process by which life gives way to unlife, but decay is stayed.