Patrick Dougherty Sculpture Installation

It’s only been a little over a year. Guess it’s time to start blogging again.

Patrick, me and Natalie at work.

This month, I took off a week’s worth of half-days to assist on a sculpture installation by Patrick Daugherty in Ithaca, across the street from Collegetown Bagels. About two-thirds of my volunteer work was material prep and moving scaffolding (where my height was a real asset), but about a third of the time I got to work directly with Patrick tying the structural elements together or weaving fill into the pieces. This picture (above, by Rebecca Thomas) ran on the front page of the Cornell Daily Sun during the installation.

Long view of finished installation.
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I guess the title for the work that Patrick finally settled on was Half Dozen of the Other. It consists of six somewhat deformed towers that weave in and out around the locust trees on the small plaza in front of Sheldon Court, adjacent to a very high traffic area linking Collegetown to campus.

Close up of tower.
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The sculptures are made mostly from maple and dogwood. For each one, Patrick stuck four or five long maple poles in half a dozen holes drilled in the sidewalk. He bent the poles around each other and the trees and tied some to scaffolding to form the basic structure. Then he (and a crew of volunteers) wove material ranging from pole-size to fine branches into the structure. Sounds easy. But that description sure doesn’t do it justice. It took a couple of weeks to complete, even with the volunteer help and a couple of kids from a local landscaping firm who spent most of their time harvesting and trucking plant material to the site.

View from terrace.
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One of my favorite views of the sculpture is from a terrace behind the site that provides a higher-angle view. The work screams out for exploration and interaction. I especially like to watch little kids (and adults) wander into the sculptures through the doorways and peek out the windows. It’s an ephemeral work, scheduled for demolition in a year. So plan to explore it soon.

Natalie, me, Patrick.
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When I first volunteered, I wasn’t sure how much time I would spend helping. But Patrick was such a gracious host and made everyone feel welcome. I”m not sure if I was more in awe of his artistic abilities or his skills in managing volunteers. It was great to get to know Patrick, Natalie, Amaechi and the other volunteers. Can’t wait until my willows are ready to harvest for a similar project at home.

There’s a great photo essay documenting the whole process at the Cornell Council for the Arts website. Unfortunately, it’s a flash site so I can’t link directly to it. Once the flash launches, click on menu > NOW > installations.

Update: Photo essay in the Sept. 28 Cornell Chronicle. I’m in there if you look closely.

Update: (3/13/2007) 4-minute video about the installation.

Water garden installed

One of my big projects this summer was building a water garden. It’s about 10 feet by 6 feet and 3 feet deep with a ledge for pots of emergent plants around the edges.

Water Garden, Aug. 2005

I chose a spot where I suspected there might have been an old spring house. The digging went quickly. I never found the spring house but I did find water about 2.5 feet down and a drain line leading to the south. I capped the line and lined the excavation with 6-mm clear plastic. I have a standard pond liner still in the box. I just couldn’t bear to use it and cut a hole in it for the spring water to run in and for the drain line to run out. Maybe next year I’ll decide I need it.

I lined the edges of the ‘pond’ with stone, built a small patio for a bench, and also lined much of the bottom and ledges with more stone. Friday, I move the pots of equisetum and corkscrew rush to the ledges, and drew down the water in the half whiskey barrel tub I had them in. Then I lugged the plastic barrel liner over and sunk it into the deep end along with the water lillies and shebunkin. They all seem happier in the larger pool now, joining the minnows that were already there from hauling water up from the stream when I originally filled the pond.

It’s amazing how cool the water is from the trickle that comes in from the spring. (I’ve already soaked in it a couple times after some hot chores.) It’s been very dry this summer, but the ground is sogging around the outlet and is screaming out for some bog plantings — eupatorium, thalictrum, ligularias and the like.

It still has a rough feel to it. But the final stamp of approval came today when I discovered two large frog have taken up residence, hiding in the outlet, behind the rock edgings, or in the lily tub.

Frog on corkscrew rush

I tend not to sit much in the garden. But this spot has already enticed me to pause more than any other.

Update 8/13/2005

I think the frogs really like the water garden. I’ve seen as many as four sitting on the edge of the pond and there are now frog eggs all over the place.