Build a giant twig sculpture with ‘Stickman’ Patrick Dougherty Jan. 8 in West Palm Beach
Deep in the clearing at Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach, you might notice volunteers hauling bundles of what looks like underbrush, or maybe kindling. It’s not for fire: Instead, they’re harvesting the raw materials needed for sculptor Patrick Dougherty’s new whimsical art project: a giant stick sculpture, all woven together branch by branch, twig by bendable twig.
“Twisted,” as Dougherty’s sculpture project will be called, will start branching out on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and finish nearly three weeks later on Jan. 26, curved into shape by a team of 160 horticulturists, master gardeners and public volunteers.
“We want people to have a sense of awe and wonder,” says Rochelle Wolberg, the botanical garden’s curator-director. “You can smell the willow, touch them, look through and walk around [Dougherty’s] sculptures. There’s this otherworldly magical appeal.”
A semi-truck with about 300,000 willow saplings will roll into Mounts Botanical Garden on Jan. 8, and from there Dougherty and company will erect the sculpture on the gardens’ Great Lawn, in the shade of a tall tree canopy of royal palms and bougainvillea.
Dougherty arrives with plenty of clout. The North Carolina-based sculptor has woven these snarls of sticks into the landscapes of cultural hubs around the world — the Smithsonian, for example. Each project is temporary, his massive cocoon-like husks designed to eventually decay like tumbleweeds in an open desert. For 30 years the sculptor, nicknamed “Stickman” by fans, has fashioned some 300 stick structures on four continents, including in Florida. In fall 2017, Dougherty turned 30,000 pounds of branches into whimsical, whirling shapes at Pinecrest Gardens in Miami.
Here at Mounts, Wolberg says the sculpture, when finished, will resemble a “maze-like fortress” of sticks inspired by the Pinecrest Gardens project.
“He understands the childlike quality that adults have,” Wolberg says. “His pieces are like the stick fortresses that you used to make in your parents’ back yard, except this is much bigger.”
To keep it from collapsing, the structure is kept upright with a sturdy skeleton of young sapling trees dug into the ground. Willow saplings are then woven together around the trees without wood glue, she says.
To participate, visitors should call volunteer coordinator Mallory Cotter at 561-233-1775 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There are 65 volunteer slots remaining for four-hour shifts, and it’s open to anyone 16 and older.
The public can name Dougherty’s sculpture during a 5-6:30 p.m. Jan. 26 ceremony, and the sculpture will go on view starting Jan. 27.
“Twisted” will go on display Jan. 27 through June 30 at Mounts Botanical Garden, 531 N. Military Trail, in West Palm Beach. Patrick Dougherty also will deliver a 6-7 p.m. Jan. 16 art talk, which costs $10. Museum admission is $5-$10. Call 561-233-1757 or go to Mounts.org.
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