Renowned sculptor Patrick Dougherty returns to Morris Arboretum

Artist Patrick Dougherty is returning to the Morris Arboretum this month to construct one of his unique stick sculptures.

Based in Chapel Hill, N.C., Dougherty has built more than 250 sculptures in the past 30 years at gardens, universities, and museums around the world, including the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wash., the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Ariz., and at Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia.

In 2009, he produced “The Summer Palace,” a 25-foot-tall structure at the Morris Arboretum that consisted of three round layers of twigs and saplings. Visitors could roam through the structure and view the surrounding Arboretum landscape.

From March 9-27, while serving as an artist-in-residence, Dougherty will create another of his characteristic site-specific, large-scale temporary structures at the Arboretum. He has chosen willow for his latest work of art, a material often used to make baskets.

“These [willow] sticks belong to the natural world, but I feel they’re bundles of lines with which to draw,” Dougherty says. “I know the beautiful and interesting line that they will produce.”

Dougherty says he will not make a final decision about the sculpture until he arrives in Philadelphia next week and sees how he is inspired by the space in Butcher Sculpture Garden. He aims to create something more spectacular than “The Summer Palace.” 

“[That] doesn’t mean size,” says Dougherty. “It means a different kind of image—something that resonates as well as the first one did. I hope to make something that’s exceedingly good.”

Dougherty typically works eight hours a day on his installations with assistance from volunteers who help with structural reinforcements. 

Visitors can watch Dougherty and his team as they work during the Arboretum’s regular hours. 

The completed exhibit will remain in place for about two years, or as long as it lasts in the natural environment.

For more information about the sculpture, visit the Morris Arboretum website.

Patrick Dougherty