Patio Door, machine stitched fabric, 21″ x 15″, private collection
Shinn, 59, has taught her technique at Arizona State University, Arrowmont School, Penland School of Crafts, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts—but her main preoccupation is with design, not technique. Her work focuses on the way natural forces alter and redefine all things. Her earlier subject matter involved old cars and landscapes, but today she often creates images of doors, windows, and chairs.
Her biggest influences are contemporary painters like Woody Gwyn (“for the starkness of his landscapes and the evocative quality of them”) and Carol Mothner (“for her sensitive interiors”). Shinn also commends Frank Relle for the colorful, evocative quality of his photography of old buildings in New Orleans.
Shinn was born in Denver, CO, in 1948 to an architectural engineer father and homemaker mother. She decided to become an artist back in the third grade and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Then she got married, had kids, and relocated numerous times with her husband, who was in the U.S. Air Force Academy Band and later taught music composition at Arizona State University. Shinn, who’d been weaving tapestries, went back to school and earned a master’s degree in fine arts at ASU in 1988, focusing on fiber arts and developing her current technique.
“The pleasure is in investigating something really closely. When we move through our lives we are always thinking about what we’re doing and events, and we’re not really paying attention to the physical world,” Shinn reflects. “For me, the greatest pleasure is the intense involvement with the physical world that I can achieve by the investigation of stitching.”
Which brings her to mention famed nature writer Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire and the fellow whom novelist Larry McMurtry dubbed “the Thoreau of the American West.” Shinn points out, “Abbey said the most spiritual thing was the physical reality around him—I so resonate with that. There’s nothing more spiritual than the details of the physical world around you.”