Visiting artist presents stick sculptures
Emma Borne | Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Notre Dame’s Snite Museum of Art, in conjunction with the Department of Art, Art History and Design, invited artist Patrick Dougherty to speak about his stickwork sculptures Tuesday evening.
Dougherty said he began a career in business before he realized that was not what he was meant to do. He said he then struggled with the idea of being artist and had many moments of anxiety before he realized his true calling. He now creates large sculptures out of sticks.
According to Dougherty’s website, “combining his carpentry skills with his love of nature, Patrick began to learn more about primitive techniques of building and to experiment with tree saplings as construction material.”
Dougherty said he decided to work with trees when he realized he could use a material he already understood.
“As I’m driving down the road back towards my house [one night], I see all these saplings growing along the roadway… I had an [epiphany]. I said, ‘maybe I could use those … they’re plentiful, they’re renewable and it’s just like having a giant warehouse always at your fingertips,’” Dougherty said.
Dougherty said he has learned to love his outdoor warehouse because it allows greater interaction with the public.
“One of the unique aspects of my work is that there’s no studio doors to close and no place to hide. The public has full access to the process,” Dougherty said.
He said the process of sculpting his art only takes a few weeks.
“I often make a little sketch so I know what I’m doing … then I lay out the piece on the ground,” Dougherty said. “I’ve got these little white dots where I’ll drill down … and put the structural pieces in. … We set up scaffolding around the outside of the piece and pull the shape we want by tying it over. Once it is all hooked together we can cut all the string loose.”
Dougherty said he gathers sticks from all types of trees, all over the world, including Wyoming, Ireland and Maui. He said his sculptures reside in universities, museums and private commissions across the globe, including New York City, Denmark, France, Purdue University and Cornell University.
Dougherty said he is currently making his next piece at Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles, Mich. He said the piece should take about three weeks to complete.
One of the things Dougherty has learned through his years as an artist, he said, is the utility and joy of volunteers. Several design students at Notre Dame have signed up to volunteer with the production of the Fernwood piece.
The stickwood pieces are only temporary, Dougherty said, and last around two years. Though it is sad to see his work be torn down, Dougherty said it does not detract from his experience as an artist.
“Of course it’s a little bit sad. … But I do like the process and I think a lot of the value for me is the kind of conversations that I have with the public and with the people who help me as we build it,” Dougherty said. “We kind of build a fighting force about making something beautiful.”