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Branching Out

Artist Patrick Dougherty brings his unique brand of sculpture to McKee Botanical Garden.

Ain’t Misbehavin’, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina, 2010. Photo by Zan Maddox

Ain’t Misbehavin’, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina, 2010. Photo by Zan Maddox

Patrick Dougherty has always been captivated by sticks. Yes, you read that right. Sticks. The internationally renowned “stick worker” has created more than 250 sculptures made of “mankind’s first building material,” intertwining truckloads of saplings to make large-scale structures. On January 6, Patrick will install his newest creation at McKee Botanical Garden. 

“I grew up in the woodlands of North Carolina, which are overgrown with small trees and where forests are a tangle of intersecting natural lines,” says the artist. “Picking up a stick and bending it seems to give me big ideas.”

It took a while for Patrick, 70, to act on those ideas. In fact, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in hospital and health administration, it seemed he would spend more time behind walls than he would out in the world. Then he had a change of heart. “I decided that the pull of making was too strong and found myself at the University of North Carolina art department in the early 1980s enrolling in sculpture courses and art history. The day I walked through that door had to be the best day of my life.”