Vesna Kittelson, “Mrs. Darwin’s Garden, Book Four”

Front view, opened accordion book with 9 collages, simultaneously displayed.

Detail of open and free standing accordion book, showing how varied thickness of paints comes alive under one’s fingertips as you touch the surfaces.

Detail of collaged cutouts and drawings, a combined technique exemplifying the importance of memory and accident.

Detail, the viewer’s eye is situated amongst various collages displaying various processes of creating and recording.

Back view with multiple collages emphasizing simultaneous presence of all elements: collaged “specimens” drawings, color, text, letters and the four gold lines identifying it as the Book Four.


Vesna Kittelson (Minneapolis, MN)

Mrs. Darwin’s Garden, Book Four
Edition of 10
22 pages, accordion book, both sides to view
open: 9 H x 7 W x 69 inches
closed: 9 1/8 H x 7 1/8 x 1 inches

Of the 22 pages in this book, 17 pages have unique collages made of drawing and poured paint on paper then cut into shapes, mounted.
Collaged shapes are cut-outs made of poured paint on paper. Drawing is with lead, ink, color pencils.

Charles Darwin wrote to Emma Wedgwood just before they married:
“I think you will humanize me, and soon teach me there is greater happiness, than building theories and accumulating facts in silence and solitude.”

2009 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and the 200th anniversary of his birth. During my stay at Cambridge University in 2009, I learned that his life with his wife Emma Wedgwood was one of great love and sacrifice.

How to celebrate this love through art became a central question in my work together with questions of how to express alarming environmental concerns like pollution and climate change.

As an interdisciplinary artist I created an imaginary garden for Mrs. Darwin. This garden features invented images of primitive seeming plants rendered in bright colors, collaged and presented in an accordion book as if these images were simultaneously showing, page after page, invention recording, and aesthetics. In this book I replaced traditional botanical drawing and coloring with a riskier contemporary approach of cutting up new and old works of poured paint on paper and collaging them into new images to experience surprising outcomes. The final gesture of selecting Latin names for these “specimens” in Book Four, was a playful way of finding a common ground for all the elements: concept, image, color, words, and letting them find their way into this artist book which was bound by my project collaborator Jana Pullman.