STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
It doesn’t have a name … yet.
Morris Arboretum member and Glenside resident Kathy Hemsley had an idea for it, though. “It’s kind of neat seeing it coming together. They look like three tornadoes,” she said of the unfinished, large-scale assemblage of willow saplings and branches being methodically layered and woven together by North Carolina artist Patrick Dougherty, his assistant Shane Campbell and more than 10 volunteers and arboretum staff members.
Her title — “The Twisting Sisters.”
Under construction for almost three weeks, the temporary, site-specific work is scheduled for an official grand opening at 11 a.m. April 4 in the Morris Arboretum’s Sculpture Garden.
Dougherty said that the tapered, semi-flexible, green wood helps project an illusion that the structures — and nature itself — are in motion. This new work will have seven tower/cabana-like structures that you’ll be able to walk around and inside.
“I have an interior space — that’s where our old sculpture used to be. I worked here in 2010, made the ‘Summer Palace,’ so we left room for it in the midst of the new sculpture,” Dougherty said of his previous visit to the Morris Arboretum. He also sculpted on the campus of Swarthmore College in 2000.
Lending a hand with building the eco-friendly art, but bundled up because of temperatures in the 30s, Susan Crane, the arboretum’s director of marketing, was not letting a little cold stand in the way of getting some sunlight and fresh air. “I love it. I’m having so much fun. This is way better than sitting at my desk,” she said. FOR A PHOTO GALLERY CHECK HERE
“At first, you don’t know what you’re doing, (but) you realize what (limbs are) more flexible, what is more rigid. You realize many people (can) make big things,” said volunteer Irma Fralic of Wyndmoor. “I saw his exhibition on television (Dougherty was featured on “CBS Sunday Morning” March 14) and then I started looking if he was going to be anywhere around here. It’s so cool; so organic.”
Also assisting was the arboretum’s public programs and events coordinator, Michelle Conners. “His work appeals to adults, but also to children because it’s so whimsical,” she said.
“I grew up in the woods … I was a fort builder. This is the kind of stuff that feeds my soul,” said Lawrenceville, N.J. resident Carol Critchlow, getting ready to join the volunteer crew.
After earning a masters degree in hospital and health administration, Dougherty realized he was the same way. “I was more meant to be outside working. It was a late-life decision that my primary focus should be making sculpture,” he said, adding that he describes his art as “problem solving.”
How long will this be on view? “You get two good years out of them … sometimes more,” said Dougherty, who has sculpted in full view of the public across the U.S. and in countries as diverse as Australia, South Korea, Serbia, Denmark and France.
“Every month I’m somewhere else,” he said of the rock-star-like travel schedule that this year will take him to Virginia, Massachusetts, Montana, Washington D.C. and to Pennsylvania once again, at Wilson College in Chambersburg.
Here are the special activities April 4 for the “big reveal” of Dougherty’s newest sculpture:
Guided Sculpture Tour: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. In celebration of Dougherty’s heritage, a bagpiper from the Emerald Pipes & Drums will lead a procession to the sculpture site and open the tour with traditional Irish music.
Garden Discovery Series — “Crafty Artists!”: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Design your own eco-friendly structure using vines, twigs, branches and leaves.
Sculpture Scavenger Hunt: April 4 through October. Discover what else the Morris Arboretum has in its Sculpture Garden. Pick up a clue sheet at the Visitor’s Center and solve 10 riddles to find 10 sculptures, each with a secret code attached. Guests who decipher the cryptic message will receive a complimentary pack of Play Doh to create their own work of art.
IF YOU GO
The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is at 100 E. Northwestern Ave. in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, until 5 p.m. weekends (open till 8 p.m. Wednesdays June through August). Admission is $16, $14 for seniors, $8 for students and youths 3-17. For more information, visit www.morrisarboretum.org. Dougherty’s website is www.stickwork.net.