Patrick Dougherty

4 November 2008

This fall, Patrick Dougherty was commissioned to create a sculpture on my campus. No one really knew what to expect when we saw the tons (literally!) of saplings delivered to the construction site, but by the time his three-week residency was up, most people’s doubts were silenced. His creations are amazing! They become even more interesting when you learn they’re all built entirely by hand, and are held up solely by skillful weaving. This quote from his website sums them up nicely:

“Dougherty’s works allude to nests, cocoons, hives, and lairs built by animals, as well as the manmade forms of huts, haystacks, and baskets, created by interweaving branches and twigs together. Many of his works look ‘found’ rather than made, as if they were created by the natural force of a tornado sweeping across the landscape. He intentionally tries for this effortless effect, as if his creations just fell or grew up naturally in their settings.”

–Linda Johnson, Curator

“Toad Hall” in Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, Santa Barbara, CA
{Credit: Nell Campbell}

“Na Hale ‘o waiawi” at The Contemporary Art Museum, Honolulu, HI
{Credit: Paul Kodama}

“Doin’ the Locomotion” at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ
{Credit: Ricardo Barros}

“Cell Division” at the Savannah College of Art in Savannah, GA
{Credit: Wayne Moore}

“Crossing Over” at the American Craft Museum in New York, NY
{Credit: Dennis Cowley}

And lastly, my campus’s “Twisted Sisters,” in various states of completion:

{All photos by students.}

As amazing as these works are, I think my favorite thing about them might be that they are designed to degrade – after two to three years, they will have deteriorated to the point where they need to be taken down. There’s something fresh about a sculpture made of nature, in nature, that’s designed not to disrupt nature, but to coexist with it.

Check out more of Dougherty’s work on his website.

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