The Twigman Cometh

If Patrick Dougherty shows up in town, he's there to make art - with a twist - out of sticks

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Patrick Dougherty, a man who builds sculptures out of sticks, has been on the road constantly over the past decade. He travels to places as varied as Weitzelsdorf, Austria, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, making fanciful forms like Jug or Naught, shown right.

No hardware binds the wood. Instead, he twists sticks, and they tangle up just enough so that each supports the structure. Last January truckloads of sticks arrived at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, where Dougherty was asked to create something in one of the hallways while visitors watched. His work Watchamacalit evolved as people came by and made suggestions. But in a museum bustling with visitors, "I had to be careful not to accidentally wind someone into one of the woven forms," he says.

None of his work lasts, of course; every sculpture ends up in the wood chipper. For a time, however, it captures the imagination, as the passerby ponders the idea of twisting together a stick or two.

About Beth Py-Lieberman
Beth Py-Lieberman

Beth Py-Lieberman is the museums editor, covering exhibitions, events and happenings at the Smithsonian Institution. She has been a member of the Smithsonian team for more than two decades.

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