Patrick Dougherty: From Saplings to Sculpture

Encountering one of Patrick Dougherty’s “stick work” sculptures feels like a magical discovery. Architectural, anthropomorphic or abstract, his site-specific installations transform ordinary environments into provocative illusions resembling enchanted dwellings, suspended cyclones or wooly creatures. 

“I think it’s really my job to capture people’s imagination,” says Dougherty, whose work, whether forming its own mythical landscape or enlivening existing architecture, sparks a sense of wonder and childlike excitement from the viewer. “There’s a subconscious attraction to the material which gives me a very willing audience.” 


Currently on view through October at the BYU Museum of Art is Dougherty’s impressive installation, Windswept. The sculpture is one of two stick works in Utah, the other being an outdoor piece at Utah State University in Logan. Dougherty’s process begins with a site visit and initial sketch, which as was the case with Windswept,might consist of a single serpentine line and a few poetic phrases. Word associations are key links between Dougherty’s initial ideas and their physical iteration. “Every flatlander loves a windswept mountain,” was scribbled into Dougherty’s sketchbook during his site visit at BYU, which lead to the exhibit’s title and overall vision to emulate Utah’s monumental mountains and sloping ridgelines. “To flesh out an idea, I write a few words down and then ask myself, what does that mean?” says Dougherty, whose first degree was English. “My conviction is that a lot of what you know is in your subconscious, it’s just a matter of getting in touch with it.”

Read my full article on Patrick Dougherty’s sculpture in the April/May 2019 issue of Western Art & Architecture Magazine.