Patrick Dougherty: Around the Corner. University of Southern Indiana, New Harmony, IN, 2003. Photographer: Doyle Dean

Work / Architecture

Tree forts: the wonderful dreamlike weavings of Patrick Dougherty

North Carolina-based sculptor Patrick Dougherty weaves dreamlike sculptures out of woods, twigs, vines, and any such natural tree-derived materials available to him. The textural density and wavering structural curves tilt towards the surreal, with the sparseness of materials and shadowy window-cavities evoking the ruins of lost phantom civilisations, their dwellings mysterious and occasionally frozen in a fictional wind. On another level, their warping appearance makes them like animated houses – I’m reminded of the fortresses in The Supermario Bros, and there are playful architectural references in the construction of onion-domes, arches, and spires that remind us of the mimicery involved in building playhouses.

Dougherty was working for the U.S. Air Force when he built his own family house at the age of 28, and when he proceeded to complete a graduate degree in Fine Art eight years later, began to produce tangled sculptures made of branches. His continued use of these materials merely emphasises the range of subject-matter; apart from architectural-looking projects in various shapes and sizes, he has produced tree-swirls reminiscent of Stefan Sagmeister’s typographical experiments, and a series of giant jugs. Startling stuff.


Patrick Dougherty: No Hale ’o waiawi. Contemporary Art Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2003. Photo: Paul Kodama


Trailheads. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC, 2005. Photo: Courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art


Patrick Dougherty: Toad Hall. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara, CA, 2005. Photo: Nell Campbell


Patrick Dougherty: Running in Circles. TICKON Sculpture Park in Langeland, Denmark, 1996


Patrick Dougherty: Call of the Wild, 2002


Patrick Dougherty: Uff-Da Palace. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum of the University of Minnesota, Chaska, MN 2010. Photo: Todd Mulvihill