Garden art

Acclaimed artist comes to Fort Worth to sculpt something cool out of sticks and twigs

Acclaimed artist comes to Fort Worth to sculpt sticks and twigs

Stickwork, Patrick Dougherty
Will it look like this? Nobody knows. Courtesy photo

There's an artwork coming to Fort Worth that is so unusual, not even the artist knows what it will be yet. 

Beginning February 1, nationally acclaimed artist Patrick Dougherty will be twisting, weaving, and shaping every child's favorite outdoor collectible — sticks — until they become a towering sculpture of some sort in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden's Fuller Garden.

North Carolina-based Dougherty calls these whimsical creations (what else?) Stickwork, and he's created them in more than 300 locations around the world, from Japan to Belgium, notes a release from the city of Fort Worth. He created this one for Austin's Pease Park Conservatory in 2018.

“We are delighted to have Patrick Dougherty bring his distinctive form of outdoor installation art to Fort Worth,” says the garden's executive director and president Ed Schneider in the release. “I can’t wait to see what he creates here — it’s sure to be unexpected.”

Aided by a team of volunteers, Dougherty picks up the sticks and weaves, winds, and twists them into huts, nests, cocoons, towers, or mazes. Rather than sketch or pre-plan his pieces, Dougherty uses the process itself to draw inspiration. The natural materials serve as conduits through which the piece eventually appears, and each volunteer lends shape to the sculpture. 

"One thing can be certain: The resulting creation will be as unique as the garden and as rooted in the landscape of Fort Worth," the release says.

For the Austin installation, Dougherty used seven truckloads of willow, elm, and ash sticks and saplings harvested from the Texas Hill Country town of Stonewall to construct four whimsical huts in the middle of a park.

Dougherty's Stickwork pieces stay on display for as long as Mother Nature intends, meaning that rather than break down the huts, the artist allows the elements to envelop the sculpture, a process that can take anywhere from 18 months to three years. 

"Once it is completed, the Stickwork, whatever it might be, will remain in the Garden for guests to explore for as long as it survives the wind and weather," the Fort Worth release notes.

Dougherty will begin creating his structure February 1 and work through the month; he invites visitors to view himself and the volunteers as they work. 

The sculpture exhibit viewing will be included with the price of general admission, and members receive free entry. The garden is currently open 8 am-5 pm daily. For more information, visit the website.

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Katie Friel contributed to this story.