Internationally acclaimed artist Patrick Dougherty is known for taking unconventional materials such as tree branches and turning them into monumental sculptures. In the last 30 years, Dougherty has built over 250 sculptures worldwide. Here at Hutker, we were fortunate not only to have a sculpture crafted in our neck of the woods, but also had the opportunity to get our hands dirty and help with the process of creating the sculpture from the ground up under direction from Dougherty himself. The installation was created over a four week period in June, and will live on the grounds of Highfield Hall and Gardens through 2020.
“For this project, my starting point was leaves and their vein patterns. When consolidated for practical reasons, this idea morphed into a fleur-de-lis pattern. The finished configuration has a strong center ridge with tendrils branching off, providing “rooms” for visitors to explore.” – Patrick Dougherty.
The vastly impressive structure, titled “A Passing Fancy,” seems to defy gravity. Standing at 50′ by 35′ and 17′ tall, the free-standing sculpture is crafted entirely of willow branches. Taking organic materials directly from nature, all of Dougherty’s sculptures will eventually disintegrate and fade back into the landscape from which they emerged. This impermanent aspect, along with the undulating, free-flowing nature of its volumes, allows the work to flow seamlessly with their surroundings.
Some HA volunteers reflect on their experience working on the Stickwork project:
“I felt as if I was a part of the art, like interactive or performance art. There were so many people, crowds really, watching us work. The experience was feeling a connection with something bigger than weaving willows together. And I felt a sense of pride for having been a small stick of it.”
“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to observe and work alongside someone so skilled in their own craft. The way in which Patrick and his son work to create their pieces is inspiring. Patrick’s consideration of site and space is reminiscent of what we do, but his work has opened our eyes to another way of making. Thank you Patrick for letting us be a part of the piece and understand your work better than we could as only observers. We will be proud to have one of your sculptures close by for years to come.”
“The entire experience was introspective for me. There’s a calm and mindful process that exists with every stick you choose, cut you make and placement that’s given. Patrick is a creative and inspiring artist who understands and appreciates the value of teamwork. The impermanence of his work led me to ask him; what kind of emotional connection do you feel once the sculpture is removed. His answer; I get most pleasure in the process of visioning and making. It’s a simple but profound truth. I’ve reflected all week on that thought and how it relates to the work we do and lives we live.”
“Patrick, as gracious and appreciative as he was, sincerely thanked us for our help at the end of the day. But I couldn’t accept it, I had to thank him. I felt like I owed him something. His seemingly effortless way of instructing and guiding, was just enough to understand the bigger picture. At one point, he walked over and said “if you place a couple sticks kind of like this, you can see the energy it creates as it lifts up off the ground.” And I could. I got it. I really felt like I was a part of this bigger picture project, working and contributing on my own, but to a singular vision. Patrick and his son are truly unique artists; to take a group of individuals and instantly connect them to part of the process, the sculpture, and ultimately to the community, was beautiful. At first I was disappointed when my shift was over, I wanted to keep going, but after further reflection it couldn’t have been more perfect. Surrounded by dogwood trees in full bloom, I thought that what makes them so beautiful is how the blossoms burn so bright and then they are gone. Like the sculpture itself – made of wood that will someday return to the ground – my part was a moment in time, a piece of a greater whole accomplished through community, with a beginning and an end. I felt I owed Patrick the thank you for the beautiful gift of this experience.”
Thank you, Patrick Dougherty – from all of Hutker Architects!