Patrick Dougherty is best known for his sculptures that break down over time. You may have seen one of his temporary works without realizing it. Built primarily from tree saplings woven together, each sculptures is approximately a three-week construction project where Dougherty and his group of volunteers carefully create the habitat or environment of this a tangled web of all natural materials. Because the sculptures are made of organic matter they disintegrate, break down and fall apart, becoming part of the landscape once again. Most people see habitats and shelters in his work – which is what many of them are meant to be – but “castles, lairs, nests and coccoons” isn’t what usually comes to mind. In an interview with Dougherty for the New York Times, Penelope Green discusses his only permanent work and the origin of his interest in what is referred to as Stickwork, now available through Princeton Architecture Press.
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.
View some of his projects after the break.