I have come to believe that one’s childhood shapes a sculptor’s choice of materials. Growing up in the woodlands of North Carolina, which are overgrown with small trees and where forests are a tangle of intersecting natural lines, certainly influenced me. I have always loved the drawing quality of the winter landscape in which one might imagine fantasy shapes drawn in the upper limbs of trees.
Tree branches and saplings also have rich associations with childhood play and with the shelters built by animals. Picking up a stick and bending it seems to give me big ideas. Sticks have an infuriating tendency to entangle with each other, and it is this simple tangle that holds my work together.
Employing my affinity for this backyard material, I have worked all over the world. I have enjoyed identifying a provocative site for building a sculpture and then constructing an artwork that excites the imagination of viewers and calls up associations with their own childhoods.
ARTerrain Gallery | Entanglements | Stick Sculptures By Patrick Dougherty
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About the Artist
Born in Oklahoma in 1945, Patrick Dougherty was raised in North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina in 1967 and an M.A. in Hospital and Health Administration from the University of Iowa in 1969. Later, he returned to the University of North Carolina to study art history and sculpture.
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. In 1982 his first work, “Maple Body Wrap,” was included in the North Carolina Biennial Artists’ Exhibition, sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Art. In the following year, he had his first one-person show, entitled Waitin’ It Out in Maple, at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
His work quickly evolved from single pieces on conventional pedestals to monumental scale environmental works, which required saplings by the truckloads. Over the last 30 years, he has built over 260 of these works, and become internationally acclaimed. His sculpture has been seen worldwide—from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States.
He has received numerous awards, including the 2011 Factor Prize for Southern Art, North Carolina Artist Fellowship Award, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, Henry Moore Foundation Fellowship, Japan-U.S. Creative Arts Fellowship, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Princeton Architectural Press published a major book about Patrick and his work in 2009. This monograph, Stickwork, has received excellent reviews. In 2013, PenKen Productions of Durham, N.C. produced the full-length documentary Bending Sticks: the Sculpture of Patrick Dougherty.