World-renowned environmental sculptor Patrick Dougherty has built a monumental, one-of-a-kind stick sculpture on the front lawn of historic Highfield Hall & Gardens in Falmouth, Massachusetts this summer. The large-scale “Stickwork at Highfield” – called “A Passing Fancy” – opened on June 30 during an annual summer open house. It will be on view for two years. A+A recently interviewed Dougherty via email:
What were the origins and inspiration for creating Stickwork to begin with?
I have come to believe that one’s childhood shapes a sculptor’s choice of his or her materials. For me it was growing up in the woodlands of North Carolina, which are overgrown with small trees and where forests are a tangle of intersecting natural lines. In fact, I have always loved the drawing quality of the winter landscape in which one might imagine fantasy shapes drawn into the upper branches of trees. For me, tree branches and saplings also have the 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. I think this “know how” is one that every human carries as a legacy from our hunting and gathering past.
The intent of “A Passing Fancy” at Highfield?
For this project, my starting point was leaves and their vein patterns. When consolidated for practical considerations, this idea morphed into a fleur-de-lis pattern. The finished configuration has a strong center ridge with tendrils branching off, providing seven “rooms” for visitors to explore.
Willow saplings from a farm in upstate New York
Dimensions of the piece?
50 by 35 feet, and 17 feet tall.
How will the public interact with it?
I have always imagined that my job is to make compelling work which stirs the viewer up, excites the imagination and causes passersby to come running. Most will be compelled to explore the sculpture’s strange shapes and hidden passages.
The challenges in creating it?
Each project has its unique challenges. I take great pleasure in the building process with all its problem solving. I love the challenge of trying to achieve the right scale and building a work that seems integrated and blends well with its surroundings.
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Photos by Mark Chester.