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Tuesday, 17 August 2010 19:13

Art and nature merge in outdoor sculpture

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Thanks to a group of enthusiastic volunteers from the area, a new Patrick Dougherty sapling sculpture has been constructed at The Bascom Art Center in Highlands.

Dougherty constructs outdoor sculptures all over the world and has finished more than 200 major site-specific pieces, but has fashioned only a few in his own home state.

“Do Tell” is a 15-foot-high by 27-foot-wide by 21-feet-deep, sinuous woven stick monumental work of art.

The community is invited to drop by and admire the sculpture’s whirling shape, maze-like interior, and natural features that echo the landscape around it. Walk inside the sculpture, as the cavernous magical interior is part of the experience.

Made up of native hardwood species including maple, beech, birch, elm and hazel tree saplings, the wood sculpture took three weeks, 75 volunteers and over 800 volunteer labor hours to build and install. Four tractor-trailer-truck loads of hardwood tree saplings were collected at neighboring Highlands and Scaly farms.

All in all, more than six tractor-trailer loads of construction material were used in the final creation.

According to Dougherty: “The sculpture’s 15 sides or facets or facades have two eye-like or window openings at the top and mouth-like or door openings at the bottom. On each panel, there is a suggestion of a face. The sculpture’s facets or walls spiral inward. There is mystery in this piece. You cannot see it fully from one vantage point. This is a work of art that you must circle around and enter into in order to discover all of its features. The title ‘Do Tell’ suggests that mystery. ‘Do Tell’ invites the viewer to come closer and have a deeper experience.”

An idea is planted

In the 1980s, current Bascom Director Linda Steigleder saw a twig-works outdoor sculpture by Dougherty at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and was mesmerized. When Steigleder joined the staff of The Bascom, she introduced the idea of commissioning a work by this artist whose critical acclaim and talent have grown.

Volunteer and local artist Bo Sweeny has worked nearly every available work shift during the entire project.

“I was familiar with Patrick and his work from having seen it previously and was very impressed and I never thought I would have a chance to work with him,” said Sweeny. “This has been a chance of a lifetime.”

Bascom member and an accomplished artist Peggy Wilcox added, “I had seen Patrick’s work and became enchanted with it. I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer.”

Located in a green space next to the art center’s kiln barn, the impressive tree sapling structure is visually prominent from the moment you enter the campus through Oak Street or the art center’s main entrance off Franklin Road, the covered bridge. Dougherty’s sculpture will be on continuous view at The Bascom for at least two years or as long as the structure endures.

About the artist

Dougherty has created hundreds of monumental, site-specific sculptures around the world. His work is constructed from thousands of deciduous tree saplings and sticks gathered from local sources and shaped into massive, swirling forms as high as 40 feet. The artist loves the production phase of his work. “We are all hunters and gatherers,” Dougherty said. “It’s primal.”

In his work, Dougherty combines his carpentry skills with his love for nature. In the 1980s, he made small sculptural works, fashioned in his own North Carolina backyard and quickly moved from pedestal-sized pieces to monumental site-specific installations that require sticks by the truckload.

The Dougherty installation and sculpture, which took three weeks to construct, is made possible through tireless volunteer hours and the support of exhibition sponsors Mary Ann and Knox Massey.

For more information call 828.526.4949 or  www.thebascom.org.

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