Inspired by the Natural World
Written by Genie Davis
Cindy Rinne is both an artist and a poet. Interestingly, her poetry is richly filled with images that evoke the visual, and her art has a poetic look, woven assuredly into the fabrics and textures she works with.
“Nature is a strong inspiration in both my art and poetry. I listen to stones and trees. I believe animals can speak. The Earth has a pulse. Changing of seasons in deeper meanings bring new stories,” she explains, her own explanation poetry in itself.
She describes her medium of fabric art as “expansive…because people give me objects from their ancestors or travels around the world. I have their permission to cut and stitch, giving the object new purpose. I stitch memories into textile collages, layering and obliterating fragments of cloth. Translucent veils draw the viewer into intimacy, mystery, and discovery – that wish to speak as a negotiation of the surface.”
Just as she forms visual art with collage, her poetry is a collage of ideas “Sometimes I overhear snippets of a conversation, or search for deeper meaning in seeing a raven fly past. Dreams can bring characters to write about as a starting point. Research may bring snippets of ideas.”
She describes both her written and visual images as influenced by myth and spirit, noting that she makes up her own creation myths, or goddess story. “It is important for me to give women a voice. The element of a woman with antlers repeats which represents power and protection. I find my imagination bears witness over time. When I created the poem of the ‘Tigress,’ several years later a friend found a Tigress myth based in ancient China. Even though the poem describes her, my intuition guided me to only depict her as an abstract collage.” To do so, Rinne utilized a wide variety of African fabrics, including part of a woven belt. The work is now a part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital collection.
Overall, Rinne views the fusion of her art and poetry as a conversation. “An example is Moon of Many Petals – a novel in verse which began with a series of art quilts. I had a bird, geisha, and a woman with wings. Parts of the series were on my design wall and I heard, ‘Tell our story.’ I was surprised, since this hadn’t happened before.”
Further inspired during a walk, she was guided to these words: “Manzanar and stillborn.” She describes the experience as unexpected, as she’d planned to write a story that was set in Japan.
“I listened to my muse/spirit guide and told the story. I went to Manzanar on a 104-degree day to set my feet where the internees did. I also researched Japanese culture and arts. I am part of the story, as I used to do watercolors and so does the mother in the story. I made up a family and they lived by the coast.” Rinne likes magical realism, and has also created fiber art pieces for this story with aspects of the sea following the mother into the desert.
Another example is her work in the chapbook Mapless, created with Nikia Chaney, in which art and the story of a ghost fish were created at the same time.
Rinne says that her current work in visual art builds upon past projects. “I am curating a fiber art exhibit, calm, centered, calm for the Chaffey Community Museum of Art that opens Feb. 23, 2020. I’m not in the exhibition, but my new wall pieces reflect this theme, with the titles ‘Meditation Pond’ or ‘Sacred Space.’ Some of my new artworks have more texture to create shadows and dimension off the flat plane.”
The artist is also designing art garments which appear in installations and have been worn in poetry performances. She calls both her art and poetry “dimensional on my body, in my voice, and in fluid movements. I’m fortunate to collaborate with Bory Thach (Letters Under Rock) or Takeshi Kanemura (Womb as Cosmos).” Collaborations are already in the works with a second book for Letters Under Rock; she is also working on an artist book with two different artists.
Rinne has incorporated text elements in her art for many years, starting by including haikus with watercolor scroll images. “Text is a strong element, as your eye wants to know what it says. I’ve learned to integrate it as a collage element.”
She says that the materials, layers, and textures of her work allow viewers to bring their own stories and perceptions. “Art and poetry, though often created alone, involve community which is shown in the work itself, with fabrics from around the world and poetic inspiration from many sources.”
Rinne adds “Myths are a part of every culture. They were created to answer what isn’t understood and to bring wisdom. I write a lot of creation myths. Perhaps because they are part of every tribe. I like the symbolism and imagination that takes us beyond the everyday reality.”
Personally speaking, she relates “I’ve written a myth that isn’t published yet, about a character who feels like an outsider but finds their true gift for the good of all. There’s a little of me in that story.” And a lot of that story in her work.