Born in Oklahoma in 1945, Patrick Dougherty was raised in North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina in 1967 and an M.A. in Hospital and Health Administration from the University of Iowa in 1969. Later, he returned to the University of North Carolina to study art history and sculpture.
Combining his carpentry skills with his love of nature, Patrick began to learn more about primitive techniques of building and to experiment with tree saplings as construction material. In 1982 his first work, Maple Body Wrap, was included in the North Carolina Biennial Artists’ Exhibition, sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Art. In the following year, he had his first one-person show titled, Waitin’ It Out in Maple at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
His work quickly evolved from single pieces on conventional pedestals to monumental scale environmental works, which required saplings by the truckloads. Over the last thirty years, he has built over 260 of these works, and become internationally acclaimed. His sculpture has been seen worldwide—from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States.
He has received numerous awards, including the 2011 Factor Prize for Southern Art, North Carolina Artist Fellowship Award, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, Henry Moore Foundation Fellowship, Japan-US Creative Arts Fellowship, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Princeton Architectural Press published a major book about Patrick and his work in 2009. This monograph, Stickwork, has received excellent reviews and is available at www.stickwork.net. In 2013, PenKen Productions of Durham, NC produced a full-length documentary called Bending Sticks: the Sculpture of Patrick Dougherty.
Ten Things I Can’t Do Without
- I have developed a back-pocket quick draw with my Felco pruners; they are an extension of my body. Any misplacement of them causes panic.
- My life-long friend Scott recently had a bout with cancer. We are a two-person think tank, and I can’t do without him.
- I can’t do without that Southern humidity. In contrast to others who complain, when I arrive back in North Carolina from further afield, I embrace that welcoming envelope of moisture as an old familiar friend.
- Early on, my wife and I bought an impressive mattress for our bed at home. When confronted with all the cold beds, short beds, and hard beds that are connected to constant travel, I dream of that familiar comfort back in North Carolina.
- When my mother died, I recreated at my house a fishpond and surrounding walled garden, to celebrate an effort we had made together in an earlier era. When the fish swim she comes to life.
- In my itinerant life, I rely heavily on the interconnectedness of modern technology. I can do business as well as call those I love instantly.
- I am embedded in my yard, in the familiar trees close to my house, and a gnarled redbud tree stump that has always been there. A sense of place is crucial to my equilibrium.
- My dad was a country doctor in Vass, NC, and he told me that in eras past some folks chose to be sown into their long johns on the brink of winter. Personally I can’t do without a long soak at the end of each day.
- Everyone has a small treasure trove. Mine is located on my side of the bed. My mother’s coin purse, my first childhood toy, an arrowhead, Indian head penny, a “cat’s eye” pebble from a trip to California, all talismans for a life well lived.
- It’s important to know where your passport, old tax returns, and other important papers are housed, but I also keep a mental list of “where I lost it”. After twenty years I finally found my steel wedge in the leaves where I knew it had to be. On the other hand, I still haven’t found the wedding ring from my first marriage, which I threw in the woods near the redbud stump. I have looked a number of times, but I think a squirrel must have it.