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About Kini

Baltimore City

Kini Collins's picture


Capacity was based pm a verse from the Tao De Ching -- "mold a vessel out of clay, it is the space inside that makes it useful."
Any vessel that is empty has the greatest capacity.
Working with three sculptors, we presented work to examine this concept.

Light on Water Installation

After two years in development, I installed the work for Light on Water in September 2017.
Below is the statement that accompanied the show.

At the very inception of life, swimming in our amniotic fluid, we are wholly dependent on water. Our bodies mature, and we remain nearly 60% water. In fact, our hearts are a full 73% water. As much of a cliché as it is, and how often it is co-opted by corporate America, there is no truer statement than “water is life.”

With this work, I hope to shed light on the significance of water, to engender a desire to value and protect it. I want to evoke the movement and the deep stillness – not only in the ponds and pools around us, but also in the streams and stillness within us.

My working process mimics the creation of ponds. I pour acrylic and charcoal ink on a transparent plastic surface, allow the ink to pool and evaporate, then layer the surfaces.

I chose this luminous space to present these pieces, wanting the work to be seen in the light of the world.

Storm's Coming

While making some monoprints by pouring acrylic and sumi inks on pieces of wood and plexiglass, I discovered a new process in the making of this work. Rather than printing from a block, I poured the inks directly onto my work table, manipulated them with trowels, and printed directly from the table. Stains, gouges, blobs of wax and paint, holes from removed staples -- ten years of history -- helped to shape the final product.

East Side Works

I have come to a time in my life and career where, in addition to making things, I want to make things happen. As long-time community activist, I have looked to find a vehicle to combine my love of community with my art making/selling experience. With a generous grant from the Abell Foundation and fabulous support from our friends, Maxine Taylor and I launched East Side Works in November 2015.

The objective of East Side Works is to help artists gain a measure of economic independence by giving them the tools to start and sustain a cottage industry.
Working side by side with 5 East Baltimore artists, we are using a hands-on non-didactic curriculum and going through the actual steps necessary to start a business.

The mission of East Side Works is to produce affordable and trusted hand-made products that are created locally in East Baltimore by a diverse, collaborative workforce.

Canyon Walls

The Canyon Walls Series

When she was a child, Kini Collins had a recurring dream. Night after night, she would lean forward, almost stretching her body, and just? fall. Plummeting through space, she would watch as the ground rushed up towards her, a crazy patchwork of folded stone. Finally, rather than crash into the surface of the rock, she would plunge into it, the earth wrapping itself around her with an intensity of feeling that would jolt her awake.

Many years later, Collins found the stone she had dreamt about so many times, and the shock of recognition was every bit as intense. The stone was Vishnu Schist, some of the world?s most ancient at 2 billion years old, and Collins was on a boat trip down the Colorado River, passing through the Grand Canyon. The 14-day trip was revelatory, so she repeated it the following year, and it forms the subject of her most recent work.

As purely expressive as her work is, Kini Collins wasn?t always a visual artist. She lived in Japan for many years and was a serious student of martial arts. Her study of Japanese calligraphy dates to this time, but was less an art practice than a cultural one. Eventually, a back injury sidelined her career, and she began writing fiction. Painting and drawing started out as exercises to further her writing, but the physicality of making art appealed to her and eventually it became her focus. Collins? circuitous route to art making, not having come up through the grind of art school, results in work that is refreshingly vital. Virtually all of her methods are self-discovered, and combine the fearlessness of the autodidact with rigorous discipline. It?s tempting to ascribe her sensibility to pop culture notions of Eastern philosophy (the influence of her years in Asia is clearly visible), but it is more genuinely rooted in a lifetime as an explorer ? of places, ideas, books and images.

Floating down the Colorado River, caught between the blazing sun and the ice-cold water, peering between the brim of your hat and the bulge of a life-vest, the towering canyon walls pass by like a procession, a riot of colors, textures and shapes with names like epic characters from some invented mythology: Zoroaster Granite, Bright Angel Shale, Redwall Limestone, Vishnu, Brahma and Rama Schists. Each comes from a different era, is formed by a distinct process, and carries unique metaphoric potential.

With her Canyon Walls series, Kini Collins has attempted to capture specific sections of the canyon as she experienced them, with roughly formed, irregularly shaped paper works. The scale of the place, needless to say, is beyond translation, but what truly fascinated her was the physicality of it all, rooted in geologic processes which were directly analogous to longstanding elements of her studio practice: pigment, water, pressure, and fire. The ?red? of Redwall Limestone is literally painted on by iron oxide dripping from above over millions of years of rain and floods. Vishnu Schist is formed of a violent folding and interweaving of truly ancient sediment with newer volcanic stone.

In similar fashion, Collins systematically works her way through a process that is both deliberate and designed for unpredictability. First tissue paper is vigorously knotted and bunched across a flat surface, then pigments in a wide range of colors are sprayed and worked in. Next, a layer of wax paper and a sturdy wooden board are placed atop and pressure is applied ? often simply by walking back and forth across it. After it?s dried, the piece is painted with wax, which protects the paper and deepens the color. It also acts as a retardant for the final stage, when she brushes the entire surface with flame, further seasoning the color and allowing for sporadic burning and other effects.

The physicality of the experience ? knotting, pounding, burning and more - is just as integral to the meaning as it is necessary to produce the look of the piece. It?s also closely related to scale. Rather than attempt to mimic the grandeur of the canyon walls, she wrestles them into a scale that relates to the human form. Just as the stone in her childhood dreams enveloped her like a blanket, the Canyon Walls resemble animal hides as much as anything, as if peeled from the surface of the stone. Portability is a recurring theme for her, and these are similarly designed to be handled by an individual. In dozens of critiques together I?ve often had the sense that the ?reveal? - pulling a drawing from a sack or folder of some kind and unfolding it for everyone to see ? is part of the experience, a physical, performative act in the same way that the making of the work is.

Two auxiliary bodies of work deserve mention as well. The protective wax paper placed between the tissue and board to make the Canyon Walls pieces reflect the pigment from below and function as transfer prints. Heavily edited (less than a dozen were selected out of hundreds of pieces of wax paper), they stand as ghosts of the larger pieces, with colors shifted and forms abstracted, and possess the elegance of Asian landscape paintings. A series of smaller works, which she calls ?glimpses,? are similarly freed of any specific location, and less seismic even as they borrow many of the same methods. Alongside the principal Canyon Walls pieces, which are more direct and deliberate, they offer a more nuanced, idiosyncratic experience of the place, filtered through memory and accident.

Ultimately, the blurring of boundaries between memory and direct experience, and between the observed world, the held object, and the artist?s own body is what Collins is attempting to convey. Like the solitary Romantic figure in a Caspar David Friedrich painting, she stands in awe of the world before her, and seeks only to lose herself in it.

Jed Dodds
Artistic Director
Creative Alliance at The Patterson
September 2011


"...Socrates suggests that the soul is immortal, and repeatedly incarnated; knowledge is actually in the soul from eternity, but each time the soul is incarnated its knowledge is forgotten in the shock of birth. What one perceives to be learning, then, is actually the recovery of what one has forgotten. Once it has been brought back, it is true belief, and can then be turned into genuine knowledge by understanding."
c. 399BC

"Anamnesis is a figure whereby the speaker, calling to mind matters past, whether of sorrow or joy, doth make a recital of them."
J. Smith
Mystical Rhetoric 1657

At the stage of my life where I find myself forgetting many things, I also realize that there is much I remember. Memories arise, bidden or unbidden. A single memory sets off a series of associations that cascade through my entire past, sometimes re-forming into a layered, blended, overlapping whole, sometimes reducing the whole to a small, single fragment.

My work over the past several years has been an attempt to use these memory cascades to make sense of my life. By remembering and reciting the sorrows and joys of my past, I seek to understand the whole from the related and unrelated parts. This recitation encompasses a single body of work with many components. All have been created with ink, wax, charcoal and fire.

  • Delta

    Wax, ink, charcoal, and fire on wood.
  • Highway 15

    Wax, ink, charcoal, and fire on wood.
  • Motosko, Japan

    Wax, ink, charcoal, and fire on wood.
  • Gila Wilderness

    Wax, ink, charcoal, and fire on wood.
  • in the window

    Wax, ink, charcoal, found sight cards and fire mounted on wood.
  • Remembered Peru

    Wax, ink, charcoal, and fire on wood.
  • New Mexico

    Wax, ink, charcoal, and fire on wood.
  • Matkatamiba Canyon

    Wax, ink, charcoal, and fire on wood.
  • Page 100

    Wax, ink, charcoal, pastel and fire on found book page mounted on wood.
  • Page 14

    Wax, ink, charcoal, pastel and fire on found book page mounted on wood.


When you have a house remodeled, you end up with a lot of wood. Some of it is useful for rebuilding, some of it not. This work is a way to use and honor the not-so-great wood that ended up in my studio.

Depicting some of my favorite places, marshes and beaches, LandSCRAPes were really fun to make. I took a long board, hammered a chisel into one end to create a rift, then ripped the board apart. Because this was cheap pine with uneven grain, the shapes that resulted suggested landmasses and horizon lines. When I tried using "good" wood, with a straight grain, the shapes were even and quite uninteresting.

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Kini's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.