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The Magic of Patrick Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty installs sticks in the Gibbes Museum atrium.

This evening the Gibbes unveils a whimsical wonder by artist Patrick Dougherty. Entitled Betwixt and Between, Patrick’s site-specific installation fills the museum’s second-floor glass atrium with soaring spires inspired by the church steeples that punctuate the Charleston skyline. The installation is an awe-inspiring site to behold.

Sam Dougherty works on the first spire of three installed at the Gibbes.

Sam Dougherty works on the first spire of three installed at the Gibbes. Photograph by MCG Photography.

As Patrick and his son Sam have constructed the installation over the past three weeks, many museum visitors and school groups have stopped to watch the artist at work. Visitors are fascinated by his working method, materials, and tools. How does he bend sticks into fantastical creations?

Museum visitors chat with Dougherty about his work at the Gibbes.

Museum visitors chat with Dougherty about his work at the Gibbes. Photograph by MCG Photography.

Patrick’s time in Charleston actually began in the woods near Walterboro, South Carolina. A team of Gibbes staff members and volunteers spent two days cutting maple and sweet gum saplings and bundling them for transport to the museum. The days were long, but fun, even with a snake or two, countless sticker bushes, and some serious battle scars on our forearms.

Patrick Dougherty collects sticks in the woods near Walterboro, SC. Image by David Walton Smith.

Collecting crew with Patrick Dougherty

Gibbes staff members spent a day in the woods collecting sticks with Patrick and Sam Dougherty.

Once the bundles of sticks arrived at the museum, the logistical prep work began. Scaffolding was delivered, floor protection put into place, and tools and supplies assembled in the installation space. It was time to start bending sticks.

Sam Dougherty works on the first spire of three installed at the Gibbes.

Sticks were piled in the Lenhardt Garden to fumigate and await installation inside the museum. Photograph by MCG Photography.

Progress on the installation of Betwixt and Between, as seen from the third-floor gallery.

Progress on the installation of Betwixt and Between, as seen from the third-floor gallery. Photograph by MCG Photography.

Bringing the sticks into the museum was no small task. The largest support pieces measure 25 feet in length, and hauling them up the stairwell and to the atrium took some muscle and a great deal of finesse. Once they were safely in the building, the supports were set into place, giving rise to the three towers. Next came the detail work of creating doors, windows, and archways—each tower taking on a unique character. Layers of sticks were then woven in place to fill the walls of the structures. Patrick used maple to create undulating white lines on the exterior of the spires—essentially drawing in three-dimensions with sticks.

Curator Pam Wall and curatorial assistant Amanda Breen assist in the installation.

Curator Pam Wall and curatorial assistant Amanda Breen assist in the installation. Photograph by MCG Photography.

Throughout the installation period, it has been fun to talk with visitors as they watched Patrick create the sculpture. Many recognized his work from other installations throughout the United States, and several had volunteered on past projects. Patrick kindly took the time to speak with each school group that passed through the gallery, encouraging children to explore the outdoors and build things with their hands. Patrick explains that his goal as a sculptor is “to excite the imagination.” As museum visitors can already attest, his work certainly delivers.

Come see Betwixt and Between in the second-floor atrium and experience for yourself the magic of Patrick Dougherty’s creation.

Pam Wall, curator of exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Top image: Patrick Dougherty works on a site-specific installation in the Gibbes Museum atrium. Photograph by MCG Photography.

Published March 24, 2017

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