In partnership with an ArtsWave Catalyzing Impact Grant in 2021, Joel was chosen to create an interactive, semi-permanent art piece for our Nature PlayScape. This blog entry recounts his inspiration and work to create his piece.
by Artist Joel Armor
As an artist, I am interested in the intersection between art and the outside world - beyond the gallery walls. The sense of wonder in an unanticipated encounter brings out our child-like curiosity.
Having grown up in northern Ohio, I didn’t realize the significance of my natural surroundings until moving south to Cincinnati. Throughout the upper region, there are densely lush pine forests that retain an impenetrable green coat, even throughout the harsh winter season. Each year as I make the trek home into the snow belt area, I am reminded of their presence as they stand in stark contrast to the rest of the adjoining landscape.
During my childhood, I often escaped into these woods where I spent much of the day in awe of the pine trees' majestic stature, bravely pointing toward the infinite sky. I found myself standing beneath their canopy feeling a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself. As I breathed in the fresh pine scent and bathed in the crisp air, my connection to this space was undeniable. The comfort allowed me to play, imagine, and contemplate in solitude: a place that felt unencumbered and safe.
As an adult, these trees still seem to guide me. In 2015, as part of my annual spirit quest, I visited the redwoods in northern California. During this particular trip, I decided to double down and join a weekend camp for adults that took place in the forest. Although anticipating a magical experience, I did not foresee what profound and life changing events the experience had in store for me.
It was during a moment of solo reflection while sitting against such a grand tree that I received the prompt: “What isn’t serving you?” By focusing on what I needed to let go of to fully realize my journey, I was able to return home and embark on a newly inspired life trajectory.
As an homage to these experiences, the form takes inspiration from the Norway Spruce pinecone seen within the Cincinnati Nature Center’s Playscape. As a means to gesture at the relationship between nature and human intervention, I impose a more rigid and geometric interpretation that nods to an intimate domicile.
The interior space bares an armature structure comprised of simple, yet naturally produced, construction grade materials. Within the space is a hexagonal skylight that creates a focal point to a penetrable pine that simultaneously provides structure. The exterior scales are made of recycled pallets, resembling the shingles of a home. Each one is capable of articulating up and down like a hinged window to simulate the bracts of a pine cone as it disperses seeds.
In Finding Home, I hope to inspire others to formulate their own moments of discovery in nature that will create memorable impressions for years to come.
This project is part of the Earth Expressions program at the Cincinnati Nature Center, which is funded in part by a grant through the ArtsWave Catalyzing Impact Grant program. We are deeply grateful to ArtsWave for their support and partnership on this piece.