What is Patrick Dougherty's Big Build?
Patrick Dougherty is an internationally renowned artist who weaves tree saplings and branches to create immense environmental sculptures. He uses the plants to form the "line" of his work, in massive shapes that often suggest childhood treehouses, whimsical nests or lairs. He has built more than 175 works worldwide over the past 20 years. The Arboretum commissioned his residency here May 3-22, 2010.
What inspires him?
"My affinity for trees as a material seems to come from a childhood spent wandering the forest, a place with thick underbrush and many intersecting lines evident in the bare winter branches of the trees," Dougherty said. "When I turned to sculpture as an adult, I was drawn to sticks as a plentiful and renewable resource. Saplings have a natural, inherent method of joining-that is, sticks entangle easily. This snagging property is the key to working this material into a variety of large forms."
Where is Patrick Dougherty's work sited here?
It is in prime view for anyone arriving at the Arboretum, on the island in front of the Oswald Visitor Center. From the Arboretum Restaurant on the Visitor Center's second floor, visitors may enjoy a unique perspective overlooking the site as well as a photo exhibit of Dougherty's previous works.
When did it happen?
Dougherty worked here 9-5 daily from May 3-21 (except May 8-9). He was assisted each day by several Arboretum staff and an enthusiastic corps of volunteers. It all culminated in a naming ceremony and ribbon cutting for the new sculpture on the final morning of his residency, Sat. May 22.
What is the name of the sculpture?
In a naming and dedication ceremony on Saturday, May 22, Dougherty proclaimed his newest creation, the Uff da Palace.
As an artist-in-residence since May 3, and with the help of more than 80 volunteers and Arboretum staff, Dougherty created a whimsical castle-like sculpture. He characterizes the sculpture as comprised of four towers and antebellum areas, and topped off with a dome-type peak, all with an intended lean, as if the wind was making it bend. Uff da Palace is made entirely of thousands of willow twigs, branches and saplings woven and twisted together (no nails or pegs were used). Visitors are encouraged to enter the structure and explore the ‘rooms’ and ‘towers’ and openings; and to peer upward through the thatched top at the sky.
“I had never heard the term ‘uff da’ before. When I asked what it meant, everyone had a slightly different answer. So, it reflects the different experiences people will have when seeing and exploring the sculpture,” said Dougherty.
Also dedicated was the opening of Stickworks Studio at the Arboretum's Learning Center. This open-air studio under the trees invites visitors of all ages to weave their own "stick art" throughout the summer.
The Uff da Palace sculpture at the Arboretum will be in place throughout this year and perhaps longer. Dougherty designed it with snow covering in mind. The Big Build exhibit at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is presented by J.P.Morgan, with additional support from Country Inn & Suites in Chanhassen, McGough Construction and Suburban Chevrolet.
What kind of trees were used? Where were they harvested?
Dougherty prefers long, flexible stems with few side branches. He commonly uses willow, maple and elm in his work. His work here is primarily willow, obtained as surplus biomass research material from the University of MN Horticultural Research Center in Victoria, the UMN Waseca Field Station, and from an invasive plant control project at nearby Carver Park Reserve. It also includes maples from existing stands for which thinning is part of normal management practice. It took about five truckloads of material.
How long will his sculpture remain in place?
For at least a year. Self-supporting and woven completely from natural materials, Patrick's sculptures are ephemeral and will ultimately rejoin the woodland's natural cycle of growth and decay. In a word, since there is nothing in it but tree branches, it will eventually be composted.
"Wish I could give it a try!"
That's what this summer's new StickWorks Studio is all about. Visitors of all ages are invited to stop by this shady, open-air studio created by Arboretum staff and volunteers next to the Marion Andrus Learning Center, to weave your own stick-art from the willow provided. StickWorks Studio will be open for this year only, every day starting May 22 through Sept. 30.
"Where can I learn more?"
On the Arboretum website. See Patrick Dougherty's website www.stickwork.net.