When Dougherty began sculpting, he was drawn to twigs as a plentiful and renewable resource. His sculptures are all site-specific and created from branches and cut saplings, which he integrates into buildings and natural structures. Dougherty’s work requires physical strength. To create these large-scale sculptures, he must first think structurally, twisting the saplings into a woven web strong enough to support each element. He then thinks aesthetically and finally, cosmetically.
Dougherty worked onsite at the Museum of Glass with two assistants for three weeks to complete Call of the Wild. The main structure, modeled after a traditional glass vessel, was generated first. Its foundation was created from vine maple and then filled with willow. The four subsequent structures reference movement and fluidity and proceed in a diagonal line through the reflecting pool. He enjoys working in public where people can watch him at work and talk with him. His sculptures, like the saplings they are made from, have a natural life cycle, so each installation is temporary
Patrick Dougherty has made over 200 sculptures in the 25 years that he has been creating Stickwork. But his construction work began when he was 28, working for the Air Force in the health and hospital administration. He decided to buy property in North Carolina and build his own house from the materials on the site. Collecting fallen branches, rocks and old timber, Dougherty was able to construct his home, in which he still lives with his wife and son, with a few additions. By 36, Dougherty decided to return to school for sculpture and attended the art program at the University of North Carolina. His interest in what nature had to offer led him to develop his tangled sculptures. Each sculpture is different and depends greatly on the site. Each project is different and depends on the volunteers that participate and the public that never fails to stop and watch the sculptures being woven together.
Just Around the Corner evokes the ancient construction of town dwellings that may have once occupied this site. The five elements resemble huts and are built into the hedge as though they are supporting the weight of trees and are a permanent fixture within this landscape. The more closely resemble homes built out of trunks than as tree saplings woven together. On site, the installation exists at right angles to the shops on the adjacent Main Street, creating a sharp contrast between the contemporary town architecture just beyond the hedge and the potentially ancient construction nearby.
“Na Hale ‘o waiawi” can be roughly translated into English as “wild dwellings built from strawberry guava”, which explains quite accurately Dougherty’s intentions with this work. Using the materials available on the site, Dougherty chose the monkey pod tree which grew in the back lawn of the museum. He used it as a foil for the sapling sculpture which surged around the branches and trunk of the tree turning its limbs into inhabitable pods.
Close Ties was inspired in both form and function by the ancient stone circles of Calanis in Scotland. The willow saplings were woven in primal stone shapes creating a central gathering point similar to those constructed by the early builders of the stone circles. The circles were known for their use as a meeting point of ceremony and celebration in which a public presentation would be performed. In the spirit of this tradition, the work was celebrated the following spring with a music and dance festival. The sculpture was burned in celebration for the festivities.
Artists don’t work in a vacuum – they research, collate and synthesise the world and influences around them, re-presenting them to the rest of us in new contexts. The greatest artists challenge us to take a step away from the daily grind, to open our thinking up beyond our own day to day existence. Never has this been more apparent to me than in Emily’s thoughtful responses to this interview.
Emily’s practice is multidiscipinary in the truest sense of the word. She is a sculptor, a public artist and a printmaker. She is perhaps best known for her large-scale outdoor works and public commissions, which often reference children’s toys (inspired by a history of toy-making in her family), however Emily also creates installations, smaller scale timber sculptures and works on paper. Her work draws on a a great variety of reference points – typography, science fiction, community activism, alternative education, Feminism and themes relating to childhood, to name just a few. Emily is also a lecturer and researcher at Monash University Art Design and Architecture (MADA), where she teaches in the Fine Art undergraduate program, passing on her knowledge and wisdom to the next generation of talented Australian artists.