Unique Utah State Sculpture Uses Thousands Of Branches

Sep 21, 2018, 6:47 PM

LOGAN, Utah – A world-class artist has spent the last three weeks at Utah State University, carefully bending willow tree branches into a giant, temporary sculpture.

Patrick Dougherty’s unique style of art tends to garner a lot of questions, mostly people asking if they can walk inside the giant, castle-like structure that he’s made completely out of willow tree branches.

“There are a lot of cultures, past and present. There are basket makers and furniture makers. In the deep past there were a lot of indigenous people that ended up using saplings, because it was more of a hunting and gathering tradition,” Dougherty explained. “I called upon those traditions, I guess, in order to make my own work.”

Sculptor Patrick Doherty looks over his finished creation with one of the many student artist volunteers who helped with the project.

Dougherty said he couldn’t get permission in time to use willow trees from the Cache Valley, so a semi truck full of branches was brought in from a willow farm in upstate New York. The North Carolina based artist has been around the world, installing some 300 pieces of branch art. He started doing the stick sculptures back in the early 1980s. These days, he has his adult son Sam Dougherty working alongside him.

“Kind of the joy of these for us is working on them, and then they’re not really ours anymore. We’re on to the next one,” Dougherty said.

Patrick Dougherty said he also believe trees hold a special place in the hearts and memories of many people.

“I always say a good sculpture is one that causes lots of personal associations,” Dougherty said. “Maybe it was just a walk in the woods, or a first kiss under a lilac bush. There’s lots of good associations with this material.”

Dougherty’s sculptures only live as long as the branches he uses to build them – about 18 months to 2 years. He’s okay with that.

“I think two years is an adequate amount of time for an object to be in any one place,” Dougherty said.

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Unique Utah State Sculpture Uses Thousands Of Branches