Monthly archives: March, 2018

Art Out and About: Patrick Dougherty at the Ackland Art Museum


Step Right Up at the Ackland Art Museum. Photo by Emily Bowles Raised in North Carolina and an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sculptor Patrick Dougherty returned to his roots to create Step Right Up for the Ackland Art Museum last October. Internationally acclaimed for his monumental environmental works, Dougherty has produced over 280 large scale stick sculptures all over the world. You’ll know one of Dougherty’s sculptures when you see one. “Some cling to pylons or walls, or roll across the tops of trees; others emerge from a lake, seeming to balance on the surface of it without making a single ripple,” explains Daniel Wallace of Garden & Gun. “His sculptures do impossible things. They could be homes for giants or trolls, the first shelters built by prehistoric men, Gaudí-esque mazes, giant vines, remnants of alien visitations, windblown towers, jokes. They are fun, joyous, friendly, inviting, and public, very public: art conceived by one, built by many, shared by all.”

Dougherty working on Step Right Up. Photo: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What separates Step Right Up from Dougherty’s other installations is that it is in his hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Dougherty earned his B.A. in English from the UNC in 1967 and later returned to study art history and sculpture. Before he began using sticks as his medium, Dougherty sculpted with clay. However, while using clay Dougherty was unable to achieve the scale he desired for his sculptures. While studying at UNC, Dougherty developed the idea of using sticks as his medium. Dougherty found that using sticks allowed him to bend and extend long lines, he could create his own monumental three-dimensional drawings. In order to effectively use sticks to create sculptures, Dougherty had to gain a better understanding of how shelter builders, such as birds and beavers, build their homes. “Sticks have an inherent method of joining…and that tangling allows you to hook them together,” Dougherty explains.


Unknown, Iranian, Caspian Region, ca. early 1st millennium B.C., Animal-shaped Pouring Vessel, earthenware, Overall: 8 3/4 x 12 x 6 3/16 in. (22.3 x 30.5 x 15.7 cm) Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gift of Osborne and Gratia B. Hauge in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Sherman E. Lee, 91.21 © Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dougherty often does not know what he is going to build until after he arrives at the installation site. Once he arrives, Dougherty has to source both volunteers and materials. For his exhibition Step Right Up at the Ackland Art Museum Dougherty was able to source his materials—maple and gum saplings—from Duke Forest and Triangle Land Conservancy, organizations Dougherty has had long relationships with throughout his career. Dougherty chooses to enlist the help of volunteers on his projects because he finds it interesting how varying types of characters can come together to create one piece. Dougherty’s creative process has three steps: 1) Structural formation—building the basic shape, 2) Appliqué—appliquéing a look onto the surface of the piece and 3) Cosmetic—fixing up and making it habitable for people to enjoy from both the inside and outside. In creating Step Right Up for the Ackland, Dougherty was inspired by the Ackland’s collection of ancient animal pouring vessels. The vessels, which usually have an animal head from which water is poured, typically have traditional tops. Dougherty liked the idea of having a mixed shape and applied it to his sculpture in Step Right Up.

“I think that part of my work’s allure is its impermanence, the life cycle that is built into the growth and decay of saplings,” explains Dougherty. “The line between trash and treasure is thin, and the sculptures, like the sticks they are made from, begin to fade after two years. Often the public imagines that a work of art should be made to last, but I believe that a sculpture, like a good flower bed, has its season.” Bounded to the installations organic material and outdoor setting, Dougherty’s Step Right Up is a temporary installation. The installation is expected to be on view through August 31, 2018 at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For more information, visit:

Art Assembled: New This Week February


Inspired by her lifelong love of human condition, Dawn MacNutt’s work remains centered on the “beauty of human frailty. Witnessing small, yet meaningful human interactions, such as seeing people experience pain, love and joy, has had a lasting impact on MacNutt’s work. To obtain material for her work, MacNutt utilizes the nature around her, using willow harvested from the ditches and lanes around her home in Nova Scotia. 

Praise, Dawn MacNutt, inflorescens and reed, 19”x 4”x 5”, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Praise, Dawn MacNutt, inflorescens and reed, 19”x 4”x 5”, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Made solely from paper, Cube Connection 09 showcase Noriko Takamiya’s non-traditional basketry techniques. Despite choosing differing methods, Takamiya still feels connected to ancient basketmakers. “I find myself in the same situation,” explains Takamiya. “Even if the resulting objects are different, the ancient basketmakers and I do the same thing, which is to seek the techniques and materials to develop into one’s own work.”

Cube Connection 09, Noriko Takamiya paper, 4” x 13” x 7”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Cube Connection 09, Noriko Takamiya
paper, 4” x 13” x 7”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

In 1975, Kyoko Kumai began using metallic materials such as stainless steel filaments in her sculptures. The malleable nature of the stainless steel allows it to be woven, twisted or bundled to create sensuous forms in order to express aspects of wind, air and light. “Thin pieces of stainless steel wire create a richly expressive fabric that does not stand solidly, cleaving the air,” explains Kumai. “It has its own language fluttering above the floor; breathing and melting into the air.” 

Kyoko Kumai, 32kk Memory stainless steel filaments 41” x 19” x 19”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Memory, Kyoko Kumai,
stainless steel filaments
41” x 19” x 19”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Ex Claim! by Gyöngy Laky is sure to grab your attention. Made using G.I. Joes and bullets, the piece serves as Laky’s personal examination of our complex relationships with the world around us. Laky’s works often have underlying themes of opposition to war and militarism. Born in Hungary in 1944, the physical and emotional effects of war impacted Laky from a very young age. In her opinion, “We are smart enough to have moved beyond war as a means of dealing with problems by now.”

Ex Claim! commercial wood"; 2014; G.I. Joes; acrylic paint; "bullets for building (trim screws), 64” x 21” x 7”". Photo by Tom Grotta.

Ex Claim!, Gyöngy Laky,
commercial wood”; 2014; G.I. Joes; acrylic paint; “bullets for building (trim screws),
64” x 21” x 7”. Photo by Tom Grotta.