Patrick Dougherty
Of the Soil and the Sublime

Patrick’s story began with his discovery that tree branches and other natural vegetation would be a dynamic medium for creating sculpture. With a focus on his artistic career challenges, he gained popular recognition for his remarkable and inventive works called “Stickwork”. He is now a noted internationally recognized sculptor, who constructs an average of 10 installations throughout the world each year. Sarasota will be one of the proud cities to have a Patrick Dougherty.

“The momentum of my career depends on constant learning…”

Patrick thoughtfully takes his time to become well acquainted with the proposed location for his work. He gathers detailed information from his sponsors to help him understand the history of the site. He carefully examines the site, lingering alone, engaging in a visual and visceral dialogue as he wanders and observes, gleaning revelations of the past and taking into consideration its future.

Patrick sometimes invents stories of his own imagining, stories that increase his awareness of special attributes as he becomes more intimate with the surroundings. His exploration includes the neighborhood, the neighbors, the local enterprises and the traffic pattern. He may write word associations, scribble notes of his impressions, jot down some preliminary ideas or make quick sketches to summarize and symbolize the essence of the location. These will later be essential reminders of his feelings, impressions and insights.

“Over the years I have developed an organized approach to formulating an idea that fits a specific location. In general, I like a dramatic placement and for a work to sit comfortably in its site, for it to feel familiar there. I plan a scale that can compete with other well-designed objects nearby, such as an impressive façade or a garden feature. I make sure that each approach to the sculpture presents passersby with a tantalizing view that compels a closer look.”

What is the magic of a stick? Sticks are so familiar, so much a part of every person’s life, a meaningful component for every generation and for humanity’s evolution. Every adult and every child knows the essential character and charm of a stick. Where would we be without trees, bearers of the sticks? How is it that something so ordinary and so mundane could possibly become so magnificently evocative, so graciously inviting and so enormously delightful? Patrick will tell you that sticks are similar to lines on paper except that they are three dimensional, occupying space.

The words are not difficult to comprehend; however, actually being in the presence of these stunning inventions and reacting to their physical power is emotional and transformational. It is similar to waking up during a dream wondering which experience is reality. 

Aware that something intricately complex has appeared in your visual field and is gracefully beckoning you to come closer…but is made simply of twigs, branches and vines seems totally improbable.

Walk closer, dare you touch it? Oh my, a person can enter this incredibly delicate castle; should you walk in? It takes a bit of bravery to enter, to experience and to accept this unusual feast for the mind and treat for the eyes. Follow with your glance those twisted branches, those swirling forms and cross the threshold into the inner life of the sculpture. Gaze out through the openings; suddenly, you are part of this extraordinary installation.

Patrick Dougherty has completely changed our idea of appropriate artistic material, expanded our notion of sculpture, enhanced our perception of the elegance of line, and elevated the idea of delight, inviting the world into a playground of fantasy and joyful exploration!

His sculpture evolves gently and unassumingly, reflecting the same manner in which Patrick presents himself. He is an unpretentious man with a temperate nature and intuitive grace. He is open to people, comfortably able to work with diverse ideas and cultures. At ease with volunteers who assist in building his phenomenal inventions, he respectfully guides all who wish to lend a hand.

Patrick Dougherty’s sculpture progresses organically, as he responds spontaneously to his intuitive artistic sensibility. The design reveals itself gradually as layers of material are added day by day. Here in Sarasota, we will witness with awe its daily development beginning with the initial infrastructure of bare tree saplings, ultimately blossoming into a magical edifice of dreamlike dimensions.

Patrick’s appreciation for the utility of sticks developed during his childhood play in the woodlands of North Carolina, where he grew up. After completing college, he worked in the field of health administration. As time passed, he recognized that his strong inclination to create art persisted and had to be acknowledged. He made the decision to change his career path and enrolled in the graduate art program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Having completed more than 238 sculptures, Patrick continues to create “Stickwork” in museums and galleries, in private and public spaces, both indoors and outdoors in American cities and worldwide.