Natural History at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

August 2010–December 2012
Ongoing


For three weeks in summer 2010, artist Patrick Dougherty and a team of volunteers constructed a monumental woven-wood sculpture in honor of Brooklyn Botanic Garden's centennial. The result, which the artist titled Natural History, will be on display for the next year, complementing the beauty of the Garden through the seasons. Garden visitors will find the work in the Plant Family Collection near Magnolia Plaza

Dougherty crafts large-scale sculptures from saplings: weaving, snagging, and flexing sticks into playful, nestlike architectural forms that evoke themes of shelter, habitat, and sustainability. Created of organic matter, his works have a natural life cycle, changing over time as the sticks settle and decay, eventually returning to the earth they grew from.

The sculpture at BBG is woven from nonnative woody material that was collected from Ocean Breeze Park on Staten Island. The harvesting site was chosen by BBG's director of Science because of its proximity to the Garden and its large population of nonnative willow (Salix atrocinerea), which is designated an invasive species in New York State. Removal of saplings of this species helped protect the site's excellent assemblage of herbaceous plants. The park is owned by the City of New York and is targeted for restoration under the City's PlaNYC sustainability initiative.

During a visit to BBG a year before beginning the work, Dougherty drew sketches and made word associations based on the feelings he experienced while exploring the potential work site. When asked about some of the words that came to mind as he contemplated what he wanted to build in Brooklyn, Dougherty smiled and said "lairs; a place for feral children and wayward adults." Dougherty built his sculpture at BBG between August 5 and August 20, 2010. Volunteers assisted him with chores including moving plant material, weaving twigs, and fielding questions from curious onlookers.

Saying Goodbye to Natural History

Alien Versus Elephant

In August 2010, artist Patrick Dougherty and a team of volunteers constructed a sculpture out of sticks. Since then, tens of thousands of BBG visitors have explored Natural History with a sense of wonder and delight. If you came upon it from a distance, and you might have noticed its elephant-like shape. From the inside, you may have looked up and

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Natural History

Natural History

On August 21, Patrick Dougherty finished his stickwork at BBG. Taking just over 2 weeks to complete, the piece is an incredible installation that beckons to be explored by children and adults alike. On the final day of construction, Dougherty and his assistant Andy Lynch debated what the official title should be. Many ideas had been discussed in

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Exploration and Inspiration with the Dougherty Sculpture

Dougherty Artist's Talk for Members

On Wednesday evening BBG members were able to enjoy the garden after hours and explore Patrick Dougherty's woven-wood sculpture. With the five "lairs" now complete, Dougherty and volunteers will be working until Friday on the final cosmetic weaving that will make the work a finished piece. After members had time to wander in and around the

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Artist’s Talk on Wednesday, August 18

Dougherty 8/16

Patrick Dougherty and his team of volunteers went back to work on the woven-wood sculpture today after a well-deserved break this past weekend. Several of the lairs are completed with only three left under construction and some finishing details left to be added. Dougherty anticipates that the sculpture will be completed by Saturday, August 21, so

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Taking a Short Break

Taking a Break

The lairs are gaining form and detail, as volunteers help weave in layers of saplings for texture and strength. Visitors (especially kids) can't resist exploring. Patrick Dougherty is taking a break this weekend. Stop by next week to see him and the crew finishing the work. And if you can make it to BBG this weekend, don't miss the Herb Garden

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First Section of Installation Complete

Dougherty 8/11

Today scaffolding was removed from the first completed section of the Dougherty installation. There are several more sections yet to be completed, but having the chance to wander into one of the picturesque structures this afternoon was pretty awe inspiring. It is a true delight to see wood woven so intricately together on such a large scale and

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Weaving a Nest

Dougherty Installation 8/10

This morning I had the chance to volunteer to weave sticks (some the size of small trees!), and I have to rave about the experience. What a terrific way to step out of the office and into the Garden. People were so curious as we wove ourselves more and more into the piece. And we could hear (but not necessarily see) the visitors passing by and

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Day Five of the Dougherty Installation

Dougherty Installation 8/9

Even when the Garden is closed to visitors on Mondays, a lot goes on behind the gates. With the scaffolding now in place and volunteers working through the weekend and today, the Patrick Dougherty installation is really starting to take shape. It's amazing to see how much the sculpture has grown and changed since construction began last Thursday!

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Patrick Dougherty Installation in Progress

Patrick Dougherty Installation

On August 5 Patrick Dougherty began work on-site at BBG for his sculptural installation. While volunteers worked to clean the sticks and saplings that were gathered from Ocean Breeze Park, BBG staff worked with Dougherty to dig holes where the main structural pieces will be placed. On Friday, August 6 work began to install the larger saplings

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Harvesting Woody Plant Material on Staten Island

Harvesting Woody Material for Patrick Dougherty Installation

For three days in early August, a group of intrepid volunteers helped harvest the saplings that will become artist Patrick Dougherty's latest construction, a woven-wood sculpture created in honor of BBG's Centennial. On Tuesday I joined the crew that collected the woody material at Ocean Breeze Park on Staten Island. This 110-acre park, located

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In his 25-year career, Patrick Dougherty has combined his love of nature with his sense of design and architecture to create over 200 woven stick works around the world.

For more information about the artist and his process, please visit stickwork.net

Natural History
Patrick Dougherty's sculpture "Natural History" in late September. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
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    • Out of the Box, 2009. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of NCMA.Out of the Box, 2009. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of NCMA.
    • Here’s Looking at You, 2009. 
Bosque School, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by Richard Levy.Here’s Looking at You, 2009. Bosque School, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by Richard Levy.
    • Summer Palace, 2009. Morris Arboretum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Photo by Rob Cardillo. Summer Palace, 2009. Morris Arboretum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Photo by Rob Cardillo.
    • Look Out Tree, 2008. Turtle Bay Arboretum, Redding, California. Photo by Harvey Spector.Look Out Tree, 2008. Turtle Bay Arboretum, Redding, California. Photo by Harvey Spector.
    • Sortie de Cave / Free At Last, 2008. Jardin des Arts, Chateaubourg, France. Photo by Charles Crie.Sortie de Cave / Free At Last, 2008. Jardin des Arts, Chateaubourg, France. Photo by Charles Crie.
    • Patrick Dougherty at work on Sortie de Cave / Free At Last, 2008. Jardin des Arts, Chateaubourg, France. Photo by Charles Crié.Patrick Dougherty at work on Sortie de Cave / Free At Last, 2008. Jardin des Arts, Chateaubourg, France. Photo by Charles Crié.
    • Second Sight, 2007. Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California. Photo by Mark Stephenson.Second Sight, 2007. Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California. Photo by Mark Stephenson.
    • Close Ties, 2006. Willow saplings, 12’ to 22’ high. Scottish Basketmakers Circle, Dingwall, Scotland. Photo by Fin Macrae.Close Ties, 2006. Willow saplings, 12’ to 22’ high. Scottish Basketmakers Circle, Dingwall, Scotland. Photo by Fin Macrae.
    • Toad Hall, 2005. Willow saplings, 27' high. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara, California. Photo by Nell Campbell.Toad Hall, 2005. Willow saplings, 27' high. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara, California. Photo by Nell Campbell.
    • Trail Heads, 2005. Maple and sweet gum saplings, 30’ high. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.Trail Heads, 2005. Maple and sweet gum saplings, 30’ high. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.
    • Standby, 2000. Maple saplings, 18’ high. Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo by Jerry Blow.Standby, 2000. Maple saplings, 18’ high. Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo by Jerry Blow.
    • Running in Circles, 1996. Willow and maple saplings, 22’ high.
TICKON Sculpture Park, Langeland, Denmark. Photo by Hatten.Running in Circles, 1996. Willow and maple saplings, 22’ high. TICKON Sculpture Park, Langeland, Denmark. Photo by Hatten.
    • Volunteers gather woody material for a new sculpture by Patrick Dougherty. Photo courtesy of Patrick Dougherty.Volunteers gather woody material for a new sculpture by Patrick Dougherty. Photo courtesy of Patrick Dougherty.
    • Artist Patrick Dougherty transports woody material from a collection site. Photo courtesy of Patrick Dougherty.Artist Patrick Dougherty transports woody material from a collection site. Photo courtesy of Patrick Dougherty.
    • Patrick Dougherty at work at Sculpture in the Parklands, County Offaly, Ireland. Photo by James Fraher. All rights reserved.Patrick Dougherty at work at Sculpture in the Parklands, County Offaly, Ireland. Photo by James Fraher. All rights reserved.
     


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