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Stickwork + Banyan Tree + bowl

"In the Thick of It"
Stickwork Sculpture by Patrick Dougherty

Wild, superb, humorous and artful are some of the adjectives that come to mind when one explores Patrick Dougherty’s Stickwork sculptures.

In the Thick of It is inspired by Pinecrest Gardens’ iconic Banyan tree which sits adjacent to the sculpture. The tree’s entangled nature reminds Mr. Dougherty of a vertical knot garden reminiscent of English knot gardens, which were inspired by ancient people’s unity symbols stemming from natural forms – one of which is the Celtic knot.

Mr. Dougherty was specifically inspired by the very low shrubs in knot gardens that seemingly hop one over the other, an illusion that is sometimes created through the subtle use of color. 

“The thought was to expand on that and make the sculpture look like it was an endless knot with one piece of the wall jumping over the other,” Mr. Dougherty said.

One’s eye can follow the tops of the walls and see how one disappears into the next.  A sense of sweep and movement is created by the twigs, branches, saplings and sticks used to construct the piece. The result is a monumental sculpture that resembles a playful shelter that was shaped by a powerful wind that swept across the landscape.

The scale of In the Thick of It is site-specific and is meant to provoke a sense of wonder and exploration. The piece fades away from the colonnade to not overwhelm the observer. Yet at first sight as one walks into the meadow, the sculpture presents large inviting doors and windows in shapes reminiscent of childhood play. 

Mr. Dougherty’s first sketch of In the Thick of It was a two-dimensional infinity symbol or figure eight. From there the sculpture took form day by day with the helpful hands of some 100 community volunteers over a 20-day period.

“Working with community volunteers makes art more palatable and it becomes reasonable that anyone can be involved in it,” Mr. Dougherty said.

This project is funded in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and presenting sponsor TotalBank.