Kristen Vardanega

Visual Description for     "Reason for Concern"

Four pieces of gray-toned paper are arranged in a grid. Each 8x10” page depicts a flat-color illustration of a plant-like structure. Radial dotted lines connect circles containing biologic imagery, numbers, words, and punctuation points. Upon closer inspection, the paper is made of recycled medical bills, junk mail, and pharmaceutical paperwork: fragmented words and letters are visible, but nearly impossible to decipher.


Kristen Vardanega is an artist, illustrator, and cancer survivor living in Salt Lake City. Inspired by illustrated books and naturalist field guides, Kristen has kept a sketchbook of observational drawings since childhood. Her work lands in the intersection of nature and narrative: most recently a series of gouache paintings from photographs and memories of time spent outdoors. She is inspired by vintage scientific illustration, zines, tarot cards, graphic novels, block printing, bugs, birds, Swedish textiles, and ornate cowboy boots. One day she’d like to be a combination of John James Audobon, Carson Ellis, Eric Carle, Hilma Af Klint, and Mary Oliver. Kristen makes art under the moniker Little Tiny Egg, their work can be found at

Artist Statement: "Reason for Concern borrows from scientific illustration, ecology, and cell biology; amalgamating observation, icons, and imagination to create jumbled, almost-decipherable diagrams. Numbers and words are cut and pasted from the artist’s own lab results, painted on paper created from medical bills, consent forms, and pharmacy paperwork. The handmade paper invents its own context, with inclusions and impurities as indiscriminate as nature itself. The artist is tasked with understanding their invisible disease: a blood cancer that originates deep in the bone marrow. Much like an opportunistic plant, cells spread efficiently, siphoning resources, aiming for monoculture. The familiar forms of recognizable weeds (dandelion, saltgrass, and thistles) act as a center point for increasingly nonsensical illuminations. Like the plants, the human is flowering and natural, three dimensional and wild. Like the weed, the patient is flattened and simplified, pressed under a microscope and pulled up by the roots."