VORTEX: a wire based installation by Joel Armstrong

VORTEX:

(vôr’těks’)

1. a whirling mass of air, especially one in the form of a visible column or spiral, as a tornado. 2. a feeling or situation that has so much power or influence over you that you feel you are not in control. 

 As an artist with bipolar disorder, my work often reflects that. Though not the original intent, this installation is a visual image of how my brain works, and what mania is like.  #bipolardisorder   #bpHope  #VORTEX :  #installationart   #installationartist   #wireart   #wireartist  #joelarmstrongfineart

As an artist with bipolar disorder, my work often reflects that. Though not the original intent, this installation is a visual image of how my brain works, and what mania is like. #bipolardisorder #bpHope#VORTEX#installationart #installationartist #wireart #wireartist#joelarmstrongfineart


Since 1998, my installation work has been based on the idea of a story. Whether these stories were from memories of growing up, family history, or those shared with me—there was always a reason behind what I created. There was safety in these stories, and if a viewer dug deep enough or long enough, they could still find clues to understand my work.

Along with these stories was a personal vocabulary in the materials I used, which included wire and rust. The medium I used for over 19 years was baling wire, traditionally used to bind up, shut out, and fence in a family or homestead from the unknown, or in some ways, from actually being known. Having been someone who always dealt with depression, when I read Andrew Solomon’s book The Noonday Demon, I was enlightened to continue, “Mild depression is a gradual and sometimes permanent thing that undermines people the way rust weakens iron.” He went on to add, “If one imagines a soul of iron that weathers with grief and rusts with mild depression, then major depression is the startling collapse of a whole structure.” The reality was, I had allowed my Bipolar Disorder to rust my identity to the point of collapse.

 The original "Clothes-lines" installation was warm and sunny giving the feel and sounds of a summer day. Pictured here, is a 2006 version that took place in the fall. The original one had sod on the ground. People were seen having a picnic in the gallery and doing cartwheels. 

The original "Clothes-lines" installation was warm and sunny giving the feel and sounds of a summer day. Pictured here, is a 2006 version that took place in the fall. The original one had sod on the ground. People were seen having a picnic in the gallery and doing cartwheels. 

The first installation I did was called “Clothes-lines,” a day’s worth of laundry from our house. It also represented childhood memories of the rusted clothesline poles that spread across the backyard of many homes—with universal sound effects that defined the backyards which included a sprinkler, lawnmower, kids playing, dogs barking and birds chirping. Soon after I started to teach at JBU, I exhibited “Clothes-lines,” and I find it appropriate that I end with this updated version. With VORTEX, the sounds have been replaced by an impending tornado, as the wire drawings that have defined my art career are created to spin around the gallery in chaos.

 Pieces from "Clothes-lines", "One Body", "Immersion: the sign of Jonah" and "Garage Sale" installations were used for this installation.

Pieces from "Clothes-lines", "One Body", "Immersion: the sign of Jonah" and "Garage Sale" installations were used for this installation.

As I arrive at the actual point of retirement, I find myself both excited and petrified at the unknown and lack of control. Being an artist is such an honor, and something I have wanted to do since I was young. Always afraid to take the big step—now that I am doing it I am fighting the same fear, but have to trust that God has led me to this place. I metaphorically can see my past as pieces of art circle through the gallery—uncontrolled, unbridled, and unstoppable. With a world that can be defined by the same terms, I can only move on with my eyes on God.