Kini Collins

The Singing Bowl is the story of Rob Morgan—sculptor, liar, Shakespeare lover. She runs away from home as a teen, winds up in Manhattan in nascent Soho and hits the big time only to find that the biggest challenge she faces is to sculpt herself.

Ever the artist, layering her canvas, Kini paints her vibrant, complicated characters with such multifaceted depth, I am drawn into their worlds and don't want the book to end. When it does, they have left their mark and stay with me for a good long time. A moving story of one woman's bold and wrenching journey to uncover the pain of her youth, the power of art to sustain her, and the triumph of community to keep things heartened along the way. Kini's mesmerizing words will have their way with you. This book is a treasure. I loved it.
Dana Harris-Trovato, writer, editor, English professor

The Singing Bowl is a biting history of the art scene in the early days of Soho and the story of a young woman devouring trauma and spitting it out, triumphant. The vivid, striking descriptions of the protagonist's artwork is testament to Collins' forty year career as a practicing visual artist.
Ellis Amdur, author of Little Bird and the Tiger

Available from the publisher:

Inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ladders, ladder creatures. Simple twig constructions often precariously balanced.

I'm back to finger painting...
spreading powdered pigment on wood or canvas surfaces with my hands, using water and sealants to preserve the image. I have always been inspired by the beauty of walls and the mystery of caves. The work is available at Fleckenstein Gallery in Baltimore.

Yo Yo is SOLD OUT!
Thanks to everyone who bought a copy of Yo Yo.
I'm hard at work on a new piece. Wish me luck!
Printed in a Limited Edition of 100

Reading YoYo is like jumping on the back of an avenging angel and taking a ride to a haunting kind of humanity.
-----Jan Angevine

The way you think about pigeons and love will never be the same.
-----Sue Colley

Pigeons embody divinity, with their cooing and gentle solicitude … they are harbingers of grace in graceless lands. Although among the most beautiful of fliers, they swoop unseen, ignored, often reviled.

Collins cares for the flocks cutting across the sky, knows their beauty. She writes about what it is to care for a fragile life. Yo Yo describes a harsh and lonely woman, transformed by love to protect what few others will, and the consequences of such a ferocious love.
--- Ellis Amdur

Distinct Lines at Fleckenstein Gallery, 3316 Keswick Avene, Baltimore
9/7 - 10/26
Off The Grid
Our efforts at holding to the known, the comfortable, are insufficient. We must be more facile, more versatile.

Howard Community College
Talkin Gallery
August 26 - September 22nd
Reception Thursday September 12 6-8pm
Collins Gallery Hours 11am - 2pm on
8/31, 9/14, 9/15, 9/22

Ancient texts, relics and fossils are the underpinnings of culture. Our ethos is formed from the evidence we unearth. From it, we create stories that we hold to be true. The collectors of the evidence and the writers of the stories wield enormous power. We must continuously examine their interpretations. To do that, it is helpful to look into the shadows.

I made the pieces in this exhibit by covering wire forms with cotton and plaster. Each piece was then painted with lemon juice, wrapped in muslin and set on fire. I soaked the barbed wire in vinegar to remove its shine. The letters of the Codex and the Birds are suspended with waxed linen twine.

Finger Painting
Images of Italy

Laughing Pint
3531 Gough Street
August 4 – Sept 7, 2018

I came back from a recent trip to Italy with several bags of powdered paint pigment. Red and yellow ocher, raw sienna, a sort of a Prussian blue, and viridian. So beautiful, I needed to touch them, wanted no tool between me and the color.

So I sprinkled them onto surfaces, like you would sprinkle flour when kneading dough, then rubbed the colors with my hands, sometimes using a little water, sometimes not.

These 27 pieces are my memories of Venice, Ravenna and Florence.

Light On Water, September 23 - October 8th
The Bar(n)
2017 E Pratt Street
Reception Saturday 9/23 3-5pm
Open hours 3-5pm
Sept 24 and 30
October 1, 7 & 8

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
Laughing Pint
November 2014
Metaphorically or literally, a storm's coming your way. Acknowledge it, prepare for it, embrace it. See the beauty and respect the power. Be comforted in the regenerative cycle of creation/destruction.

An excerpt from Mary Oliver
In the Storm
..... Belief isn't always easy.
But this much I have learned,
if not enough else—
to live with my eyes open.
I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.
This wasn't a miracle.
Unless, of course, kindness—
as now and again
some rare person has suggested—
is a miracle.
As surely it is.

City Birds -- The Nickel Taphouse Edition
August 2014
The Nickel Taphouse
Baltimore MD
I have been making artwork depicting birds for over 15 years.
Although I do travel to interesting and exotic places to go bird watching, my favorite birds are those I live among. Pigeons, starlings and sparrows are a part of my everyday world and they continue to inspire me with their patience, fortitude and general goofiness.

Starlings in Flight are made with beeswax, paper and crayons. I layer maps and newspapers and melted beeswax onto an Ikea lazy susan then draw the birds with the crayons. After multiple layers and scrapings, I fuse the layers together with a torch.

The City and Traveling Songbirds are done more simply. I fix hand dyed tissue paper and old maps to wood surfaces, draw to discover the bird with charcoal, and seal the whole thing with acrylic medium.

I have been living and working as an artist in Baltimore since 1998.

In February 2008 I broke my arm. Perhaps because it was the first time I was unable to, I realized how much I loved making artwork. I found my studio time to be the most rewarding and stimulating part of my life and I wanted to engage in that process as often as I could with as much focus as I could bring to bear.

I had been very lucky in my career, finding representation early and fairly easily. But the maintenance of those relationships added a layer to my life I came to realize was a hindrance to my art production.

So I decided to quit the art market, to sell everything I made directly from my studio or at venues where there is little or no commission charged.

After eight years, I still find my decision to have been a great one. Since more people can afford my work, more people buy it. And I am much happier and more productive as an artist.

The upshot of this marketing strategy, however, means that much of the work you see here will have already been sold. But I am happy to entertain requests for commissions and I am always, always finding new ways to depict city birds.

Canyon Walls
September 2011
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, Executive Director, The Studios at Key West

Cape May, New Jersey
Fleckenstein Gallery
September 2013
These pieces are about land and sky. They are based on trips to Cape May, New Jersey. I go twice a year, in spring and autumn, to witness the bird migration. The trip has become a touchstone for me, cataloging the passage of time.

I combined painting with my recent process, dying paper with inks. For the land, I create texture with white tissue paper gessoed to the surface. Then I mix acrylic inks and pour them onto the paper, working them in and around with trowels. I leave some of the paper in place, remove some of it. As always, the process is repeated several times. Then I paint in the sky. The final step is to seal the land with with an acrylic medium.

School 33
January - March 2013
"...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 tissue paper, ink, wax, charcoal and fire.

GARMENT 1st Principles
Area 405 in Baltimore.
June 2013
Nathan Cobb described the ubiquitous presence of nematodes on Earth as:
"In short, if all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes. The location of towns would be decipherable, since for every massing of human beings there would be a corresponding massing of certain nematodes. Trees would still stand in ghostly rows representing our streets and highways. The location of the various plants and animals would still be decipherable, and, had we sufficient knowledge, in many cases even their species could be determined by an examination of their erstwhile nematode parasites.