Thursday, August 25, 2011

Patrick Dougherty will make you rethink your housing situation.

This morning I received a picture text from our friend Kelly who recently transplanted to NYC. The photo she sent me, with the caption "at Brooklyn Botanical," was of this:
Kelly, who knows me well, just sent me the picture because she knows my penchant for tree-loving and my fondness of going into the woods and trying to make art with what I find there, a la Andy Goldsworthy. (Unfortunately, the latter is a more difficult task than it seems. Turns out tying sticks together in the woods ends up looking like something out of The Blair Witch Project much more often than it ends up looking like art.) What Kelly didn't realize is that she had just transported me back to my sophomore year of art school when I did a report on Patrick Dougherty, the artist who created the piece she'd seen at the botanical garden, in my sculpture class.
Dougherty uses twigs and saplings to build monumental installations around the world. The first time I came across his work was in Sculpture Magazine, featuring this piece:
I was immediately drawn to his work because the objects, obviously skillfully crafted, maintained a beautiful serendipitous quality as though they had simply sprung from the earth, fully formed like Athena. I was also going through a stage where I was obsessed with cocoons, so that had something to do with it, too. For my woodworking project that semester I constructed a humble homage to him using Honeysuckle plants I pulled out of the woods behind my dorm and carried in bushels strapped on the back of my bike to the sculpture building. I later released said piece back into the same woods from which I'd sourced it, and the only remaining slide I have is a photo a friend snapped when she stumbled upon it later that winter:
It doesn't do Dougherty any justice, but it taught me how difficult it is to build with wild materials. My piece was only about 5' tall. I can't even imagine building pieces like his.

So thanks Kelly, for reminding me of an artist I really enjoy. Maybe I'll get to see the piece at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens when I visit NYC this fall.


  1. Excellent! I love this, and if I'm not mistaken, isn't this artist going to come and visit the community art center as a visiting artist to your class?

  2. Ahhh! I love this! You were an instant thought when I saw these... wish I could have texted more, but I was trying not to be a bad example for the 5th graders I was with.. :) Also! Did you post at 11:11 on purpose?