Vesna Kittelson grew up in the ancient Roman city of Split in Croatia. After finishing her law degree in Split she moved to Cambridge, England and later to the US. She studied art at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts and a master’s degree in Design. She continues to live, work and exhibit her paintings in the Twin Cities, England and Croatia. Her primary themes in painting can be grouped into four or five categories: early work consisting of large cutout paper abstractions, followed by a body of figurative work entitled - War Paintings, after that she combined figurative and abstract thinking in - Lost And Found In America (contemplation on the strangeness of being an immigrant), and most recently she has developed a body of self portraits and portraits.
Vesna taught painting in the Fine Arts Department and in the Graduate Program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. She was the recipient of the Bush Fellowship for painting, and several Minnesota State Arts Grants and she was granted an open studio day sponsored by the Walker Art Center. She is a member of the co-op Traffic Zone Center for the Visual Arts and in the past was a member of the feminist co-op WARM.
The series of portraits, Young Americans, is an open ended project of painting young people between 20 and 30 years of age. These paintings are fragments, just a face, painted in oil on paper, cut to be placed directly on a wall.
Conceptually, the cutout form derives from my childhood experience of growing up in the ancient Roman city of Split, Croatia, where I was literally surrounded by fragments of Roman and Western art. Sculptures, mosaics, and frescos were everywhere, accessible to anybody. To me as a child, these fragments were electric and compelling riddles to solve. Later, I responded to them by becoming interested in painting faces as fragments, not the whole figure. With time I observed that painting a fragment of a body opened up an opportunity for the viewer to complete the image in his/her own way which is more difficult with an already framed work.
Another relevant component in the conceptual making of Young Americans is that as an immigrant, I continue to be interested in the cultural and racial diversity of our country. The American quilt with multi-colored and multi-textured patches of cloth making a unified whole gave me the idea to mimic it with multi-layered, multi-textured portraits representing the diverse society in which we live. In my perception, it is the Young Americans who are the real American Quilt.