As you venture into the Huntsville Botanical Garden, you'll pass the Aquatic Garden and see something that resembles four larger-than-life round hay bales. Congratulations! You have found the Stickwork art installation by Patrick Dougherty. This interactive art piece will hold a semi-permanent place for two years. We were lucky enough to speak with the artist and learn more about the immersive exhibit.
A little about the Huntsville, Alabama, Stickwork sculpture:
1 Artist - Patrick Dougherty, of North Carolina, created Stickwork.
3 Lands - Saplings, primarily sweetgums, were collected from land in Marshall and Madison Counties.
100 Volunteers - 100 Rocket City locals donated their time at the Huntsville Botanical Garden to help create this sculpture in February of 2022.
580 Hours - Between Huntsville Botanical Garden employees, the artist, and volunteers, it took more than 580 hours to complete the art.
Every year, Patrick Dougherty of North Carolina creates ten sculptures worldwide. As a child, he was fascinated by nature and how it draws the eye and inspires. He told us he likens himself to a seamstress, but for carpentry, and sticks instead of stitches. When he first began his Stickwork career more than 30 years ago, he took inspiration from the birds and beavers. He uses saplings because they are pliable, plentiful, and renewable. He does not create his work to be permanent; it is about experiencing it while it lasts. He's created sculptures from Scotland and Japan, to Brussels, and now Huntsville.
When he visited Alabama for the first time to scope out the garden, he noticed the round hay bales on the farms. The idea of taking the landscape, rolling it up and giving the illusion of movement - while being perfectly still - was something that he wanted to capture with his piece in the Rocket City. His process is always the same: it starts with an idea, and then he begins to sketch. He sets up the sculptural pieces after determining how large they will be by marking them on the ground. This particular piece is titled Roly Poly (for obvious reasons!).
In each location he creates, he asks the local community to be a part and help take ownership of the art. It also gives people a chance to see that artists are just people trying to find their place in the world. He uses his sticks like an artist uses a pen stroke.
Regular Garden admission includes Stickwork, and visitors are encouraged to wander inside and engage with the sculpture. Patrick left us by summing up his desire to stir the imagination of those looking at the piece.