Rino Kodama It was important to give attention to the parts that are unseen, too.
By Mary Truong October 28th, 2020
For Rino Kodama, art is a practice that facilitates healing; their artwork is often delicately inscribed with self-affirming words like, “an abundance of love envelopes you” or “to be seen and held and loved but not as a spectacle.” Kodama notes that many queer people, like themself, “lose out [on experiences of] getting to realize or live out how you love or how you feel comfortable in your gender” because of surrounding societal forces. If the outer world denies or rejects an aspect of Kodama’s identity, then the artwork that Kodama creates is a tangible presence that recognizes the importance of their existence and supports their self-actualization. Kodama asks, “if this affirmation came alive... what would they look like?” Their answer is a companion that can hold another being.
Kodama’s practice primarily takes the form of ceramic vessels and painting, though they also work with drawing and natural dyes. To Kodama, clay is a medium especially adept at referencing ideas of change and metamorphosis because of the chemical processes and stages that clay can undergo— “it mirrors the themes of transformation and healing that I’m interested in and drawn to.” Kodama specifically exposes their body in these clay vessels by scoring images of their body onto the vessels. Because clay so profoundly holds suggestions of its maker’s body (through fingertips and palms pressed against its yielding surface), Kodama intertwines their body to ideas of natural changes through these ceramics.
“The cocoon as this stage of incubation or hibernation…”
These vessels are also inextricably linked with imagery of earth and nature; of course, there is the obvious association of clay being an earthbound material, but Kodama also uses forms of cocoons and butterflies to reference metamorphosis. adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy has been a particular influence for Kodama: brown writes of ways that human beings can learn from nature (the interconnections of mycelia, the adaptability of natural networks) to tend to their own community. Kodama says, “Her connection to nature and non-human creatures as a sourcemap of figuring out how we can organize our own movements was really inspiring to me. That’s also why I use symbolism in my work that’s connected to nature.” Ceramics tend to be stiff and cold due to having been fired, but Kodama adds flexibility and life to their art objects. When installed, many of Kodama’s ceramic pieces appear to erupt from the ground as if just birthed with a certain juvenile softness.
“It was important to give attention to the parts that are unseen, too.”
The world Kodama imagines teems with potential: cocoons act as symbols of burgeoning, latent beings; malleable clay takes on limitless forms. On the inside surface of their vessels, Kodama writes text that cannot be seen by the viewer as “a secret timestamp of whatever I was processing emotionally.” It is another way to give life, depth, and interiority to these artworks, but it also seems like a metaphor: what is fomented and cultivated internally during the healing process? What do we hold inside? With tender words and sincere care, what shape can we take?
“To start over and over and over”
A hopefulness about the future resides in Kodama’s works; they seem to say, ‘if we take sufficient care of ourselves and each other now, we can “imagine an alternative present or futures, free of binary constrictions.”’
See more from the artist at