Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Twig Sculpting at Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve

I think that part of my work’s allure is its impermanence, the life cycle that is built into the growth and decay of saplings. My focus has always been the process of building a work and allowing those who pass to enjoy the daily changes or drama of building a sculpture as well as the final product. However, the line between trash and treasure is thin, and the sculptures, like the sticks they are made from, begin to fade after two years.  Often the public imagines that a work of art should be made to last, but I believe that a sculpture, like a good flower bed, has its season.
– Patrick Dougherty (source)

I volunteered a couple of days to help with Patrick Dougherty's twig sculpture at Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve. I heard what they were doing and jumped at the chance to work with an installation artist. I did a little research to understand who Pat is and what he does. Fernwood shared a couple of excellent videos on his work. Here is one from an installation in North Carolina. Here is a clip introducing a documentary of his work in Bending Sticks. There have been numerous articles in the local papers as well. 

Follow the Leader  set the stage, inviting the public to join in the process. 

The South Bend Tribune reports on his inspiration and process. It also includes a video of him talking about the sculpture. 

The Herald Palladium gives a very personal look into the local experience, with quotes by Rick Tuttle a well. 

Patrick collaborates with Viki Graber, a local willow weaver, below. She constructs baskets in Goshen. She volunteered for many days, using her skills and knowledge of the material to add to the project. Here is a video of her making a basket. I've seen her at various local festivals and such. She has beautiful, functional work

Pat showed us the basics of the work and his concept, then let us get to work. We poked and prodded the sticks to weave them into the structure. A local artist, Rick Tuttle, was working on the scaffolding above my head most of the morning. He became a key player in orchestrating the twig sculpture. His art spans many media. He has a gallery/book store for his unique book bindings and boxes in Three Oaks, Michigan.


We found deer scat near the willow. Viki said the deer and rabbits love the willow.

This structure is fairly massive. When I was working on it, only a few of the "rooms" were taking shape with more planned throughout the process. Being a part of the action allows us to hear of the plans for the work, how the site is chosen, how the local flavor becomes part of the work, and how the artist considers things like snow in the design.

As we worked on this, I was amazed at how Patrick had such a vision for his work. He was able to lead and direct a group of (typically) unskilled volunteers (though several are artists in their own right!) to create a shared collaborative work. I enjoyed meeting and talking with the other volunteers. It is grand to be part of something bigger than ourselves.


You can see the areas filling in more. Patrick worked on "finishing" some aspects to get the desired effect of movement and other worldly charm with the twigs.

Here is "my" wall! This is the area I was working on the most, weaving sticks back and forth. You can see the window openings on the right--this was a battle to keep this open as sticks filled in the structure.


Happy 50th Birthday, Fernwood! Wow! I can really see the difference between the first picture on this post and the end of our 4 hour shift. There were about 7 volunteers plus a group from a Notre Dame sculpture class that worked toward the end. Many hands make light work, right? This is going to be beautiful! Looking at his work online makes me want to go outside and play! 

It was nice to see color popping up at Fernwood last week! I'm sure in just a week that there is much more color, as once the color arrives, it springs up everywhere!