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October 28, 2011

Patrick Dougherty's Sculptures 'Inclined' to Come Down

PatrickDougherty-SoInclined-Mahaney CenterI miss them already. The strange-looking, twisty, teepee-esque sculptures, a grouping of botanical buddies that lean slightly, as if whispering secrets to each other. "So Inclined," the installation in front of the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College, is coming down. Talk about planned obsolescence.

Renowned artist Patrick Dougherty created the site-specific sculpture in 2007, with the help of more than 200 local volunteers and from dogwood saplings harvested in Weybridge. The word "temporary" was built in. Today, Dougherty returns to campus for a talk about this, and other projects, at 4:30 p.m. in Room 221 of the Mahaney Center.

If you want to know why Dougherty believes in taking down what he has put up — "So Inclined" is soon to be chipped and recycled as compost — go to his talk and ask him.

Middlebury College is also inviting comments from visitors, and memories from those who helped install the sculpture four years ago, on a blog on the school's website.

Anyone who might find themselves nostalgic for "So Inclined," or wants to find out about more of Dougherty's installations, should pick up his recent monograph, Stickwork. Word has it the artist will be signing copies following his talk today.

Walking through Dougherty's sculptures is transformative, probably in ways unique to each visitor. For me, the spaces he creates feel intimate, contemplative; they manage to recall the magic of a childhood playhouse with a grown-up awareness of the evanescence of life. I've seen only one other work of Dougherty's firsthand, at the Joslyn Art Museum in my hometown of Omaha, Nebr. That one is called "Story-Telling Hut" and presides over the museum's "Discovery Garden. Aptly named.

Note to Patrick: Please return to Vermont to build another stickwork. My yard is available.

Ah, how bittersweet! I wrote my first article in college when these were being built in my junior year. The sculptures were amazing, and Dougherty was a very fun interview. After four years it will be kind of weird to see the Middlebury landscape without them.

Me too, Tyler! I wrote about this for the Addy Indy. It was one of my first art stories. I remember spending an afternoon weaving twiggy little branches into the gaps between the swooping boughs Patrick had pounded into the ground. Incredible to watch him work.

Thank you, Tyler and Megan, for your reminiscences about these sculptures. My partner's family has a camp down in Wells, VT, so I've been driving by these since their installation (and walked around/through them on a couple of visits to the art center). You were both lucky to be there, then! LPR

Loved walking through and around that sculpture. I felt I was deep in the woods. I was amazed at the forms created by wood, artistry, and muscle. I will miss seeing them next time I am in Middlebury.

Since Tyler and Megan are reminiscing about their writings on 'So Inclined,' I feel enabled to recall my own piece in SevenDays in 2007 about the creation of those wonderfully whimsical sculptures. Can it already be four years ago? Yes, and time's passage is accentuated by the very nature of Dougherty's work. My 2007 story noted: "...just as the assemblages rise from the earth, so too will they return to it."

How can it be art if it isn't offensive or trashy looking?

It was beautiful artwork I must say. As an added plus to the blogpost, no trolls!

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