Friday, August 20, 2010

SIte-Specific Art Installation at Botanic Garden Made of Branches from Invasive Species

This morning, installation artist Patrick Dougherty (above center), who creates whimsical woven structures from saplings and twigs, completed the first site-specific sculpture to ever be commissioned by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG). 

Dougherty began construction of the large-scale sculpture on Aug. 5 in the Plant Family Collection meadow, and over the next three weeks enlisted the help of about 50 volunteers to build the piece. The finished work is comprised of several structures that resemble huts and are linked together from above by a network of arches.

“It’s a retreat for feral children and wayward adults,” Dougherty said.

Willow branches from the nonnative species salix atrocinerea — designated as an invasive species in New York State — make up the installation. This material was collected from Ocean Breeze Park on Staten Island. It’s supplemented by branches from BBG’s collection of cherry trees.

To build the structures, 30-inch holes were dug into the ground to anchor the foundational branches, and additional material was woven in from there. As the structure got larger, scaffolding was constructed around it so workers could weave up to more than 10 feet.

When thinking of the overall design, Dougherty wanted the piece to “fill the space in an adequate way,” and used a nearby tree whose branches hung above as a guide.

“You’re working as though you’re building a drawing,” he said. 

During the construction process, garden visitors could watch Dougherty and the volunteers build the sculpture. Toward the end of the process, he said, a four-year-old visiting with her mother saw it said, “It looks like natural history!” So Dougherty decided to name the piece, “Natural History.”

The sculpture will be on display in the garden for a year — commemorating the institution’s centennial — so visitors can see it throughout the seasons, said BBG spokesperson Kate Blumm.
“We want to take it down while it still looks good,” said Dougherty.
Dougherty has been constructing large-scale sculptures out of tree branches since the early 1980s, but started making a living at it around 1985, he said.

He’s done more than 200 installations around the world, and for him, the process of making art is as important as the end result. He is also publishing a book of photographs of past projects, called Stickwork.

As is evident by the fact that he involved so many volunteers in his craft, he feels that we all have “stickwork” within us. 

“Kids seem to know everything about sticks, so we all seem to know at one point,” he said.

For more information about the installation process, visit For more information about Patrick Dougherty’s work, visit


kerosene28 said...

I found your blog when I was looking for a different sort of informtion but I was very happy and glad to read throu your blog. The information available here is great.
compare fuel oil

Anonymous said...

This is really cool. I found your blog through an art class I am taking in Kentucky. I bviously have a very cool teacher that is in touch with the real world. As if the blog wasn't cool enough on it's own I was looking at your favorite links and noticed that one of the links is to 3R Living! I have a friend Mark who has a store in Brooklyn. I think the whole concept is awesome hopefully he ca hang in there in these tough times.Keep up the great work and I will be following from now on.

Brittany Fowler said...

This piece of art work is made out of objects from nature and can not be moved from its intended environment which makes this piece site specific art. It is an art medium which means the artist arranges objects or artwork in a place in which the entire place is a medium making the piece also installation.

Anonymous said...

This specific piece of art is made out of pieces of nature. It is an art medium meaning the artist put the objects in a place where the whole place is a medium.
Lauren Edwards