Donald Farnsworth was born in Palo Alto, California in 1952. His extensive list of degrees in education were earned at various institutions that include Laney College in Oakland, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Institute of San Francisco, and finally the University of California at Berkely. His works have been included in various shows throughout the United States and internationally.
Farnsworth has received awards and grants from various organizations including the Graphic Arts Council and the World Print Council. In addition to his involvement in the artistic world, Farnsworth has spent time as a professor of art at several different universities; he has published and contributed to various books throughout his career, and has been director of a fine art publishing organization.
Controversy surrounding theories of evolution have continually unfolded since British scientist Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species in 1859. For contemporary printmaker Donald Farnsworth, Darwin’s writings offered the opportunity to explore notions about science, the natural world, and the chasm that sometimes exists between observation and belief. A collector of strange and beautiful insect specimens and a digital technology enthusiast, Farnsworth produced his Origin: Species series using bugs from his own collection, as well as specimens from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The highly detailed images were digitally captured and then overlaid onto printed chapters of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
There is a calculated directness in Farnsworth’s work: an invitation to forget what you think you know and to simply look. He invites viewers to engage with the works’ content as fresh, raw data—just as pioneering naturalists like Darwin did in the years before museums and biology departments were commonplace. At the same time, the raw data of Darwin’s text reveals Farnsworth’s admiration for the epistemology of science. By subtly locating the specimens within a scientific context, Farnsworth reminds viewers that a considerable wealth of observation-based research informs the development of scientific theories like evolution.