Thursday, July 23, 2009

Three Weeks in One Minute

In case you didn't get to stop by the Museum while Patrick Dougherty was constructing his stickwork, The Rambles, you can take in the progress in this quick video. While Patrick was on site we documented the creative process in nearly 4000 photographs. The best of them have been edited into a short film, now on view at the Museum. This weekend's Midsummer Festival is an excellent chance to come and see the finished project and take a few pictures of your own.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 16 at The Rambles

Patrick officially finished the sculpture at a "last stick" ceremony today when he also christened our sculpture The Rambles, as in "Let's go to the Florence Griswold Museum and picnic down by The Rambles" or "Kids really enjoy running around The Rambles by the river." Rather than signing his work in a traditional way, Patrick took the last stick and chomped down on it with his teeth, leaving a permanent, personal record, before weaving it into the structure.

When the work was finished Patrick took off his work gloves for all the volunteers to sign. If you were a volunteer on the project you'll soon be receiving word about an upcoming volunteer appreciation dinner where you'll be able to sign the gloves too. The gloves will be on display in the Museum through October, at which point they'll be returned to Patrick's studio.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 15

After much concern about the weather and the availability of sticks over the past three weeks, we hear the good news from Patrick today that his sculpture will not only be done on time, but probably a little early tomorrow. In fact, they've been breaking down and moving the scaffolding away quite a bit as the work day draws to a close. I can see from my office window that the grounds crew here at the Museum are sprucing up the worksite as I type. There's sure to be a final push tomorrow to put the finishing touches on the project as a whole.

In eager anticipation of our sculpture's completion, we've installed an exhibition inside the Museum that shows many photographs of Patrick's other work, as well as models, sketches and videos. This too comes a little bit earlier than we'd planned and will coincide with the opening of the Lyme in Mind exhibition this weekend. Hopefully the many reporters, photographers, and news teams that visited the site today will help spread the word about this fantastic project and draw many many visitors to our Midsummer Festival next weekend. Fingers crossed that when I report in tomorrow our sculpture will have been given a proper name.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day 14

There's been speculation for days as to what the sculpture will be titled. Visitors and staff alike are waiting to hear what sort of word play Patrick will employ. Our resident wordsmith and Director of Education and Outreach David Rau cleverly came up with "A Ruin with a View" taking into account both the theme of ruin that Patrick's been playing on, as well as the sculpture's prime location on the Lieutenant River (I wonder what the kayakers thought as they paddled by today...). My idea is to incorporate the word "Sub-Lyme" which is how the photographer Walker Evans used to refer to the area where he lived, in the lush far reaches of Lyme. I think it's great material for the kind of punning titles Patrick sometimes gives his sculptures. So many landscape painters, garden designers, and architects utilized elements of the beautiful and the sublime (sublyme?) in their work, in much the same way that Patrick is doing here. We all look forward to hearing the final title.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 13

With only three more work days left on the project, the crew was out again today harvesting more sticks and saplings. The "floorplan" of the sculpture seems more and more complex each hour, with walls forming today in places where there were only columns yesterday. Many devoted volunteers have been returning to continue working on "their" part of the sculpture, taking real pride in ownership of their piece of the overall project. Pauline and Bob Knoll were back for the third time today, bringing their dog Gracie along. Gracie watched the process unfold as if it was a doggie dream house being built just for her.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 12

The project is growing by leaps and bounds now. There was a remarkable difference between the state of the sculpture on Friday afternoon and the current state, at the end of Monday's work day. This video alternates between the Friday afternoon and Monday afternoon views. In it, you can see the tall sticks and saplings which had previously stuck straight up in the air have begun to curve over and are being worked into the overall sculpture. It's a little bit like taming unruly hair, but on a much larger scale. Patrick made a similar analogy today, describing the way he was working the sticks together, using one to hold back the rest, like a barrette.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 11

Just when you think a part of the sculpture is finished, the crew drags the scaffolding back and utterly changes the appearance again. Yesterday's work on the columns presented a very regular row of uprights when the work began this morning (see photo above) but by the end of the day today things were looking much different. It is a ruin, after all, and those columns maybe seemed a little too new. Today they began to transform into an arcade of sorts, with Patrick's assistant Mike working taller saplings into curved forms springing from one column to the next. Work is finished for another week, but come by the Museum over the weekend to take in the progress. We've posted a sign and informational brochures outside to help explain what's going on.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Day 10

There was a lot of talk about "verticality" around the stickwork project today. Traditional columns have fluting carved into them that emphasizes the length of the column. It's really a bit of optical illusion that the Greeks thought up to give their architecture a more monumental, soaring, appearance. Patrick worked particularly on trying to make his stickwork columns look less like they'd been wrapped up in vines and sticks and more like the vines were becoming the columns. Patrick fashioned an example so that our crew of volunteers could work on additional columns on their own. In the finished (or more finished) versions you can see how the smaller diameter sticks, packed tightly together, give the illusion of fluting and therefore the illusion of verticality as well.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Day 9

This morning the plein air painters arrived to paint the river and gardens, creating a unique juxtaposition of 19th and 21st century approaches to landscape in art here on our grounds. Maybe once the sculpture is finished the painters will turn their easels away from the Lieutenant to capture the Patrick Doughery's sculpture on their canvases. In the meantime, the towers and columns of our "new ruin" continue to thicken with freshly clipped saplings. The towers themselves will remain roofless, maintaining a view of the sky from the inside.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Day 8

There was a lot of fixing the holes while the rain got in today. Buckets of rain alternated with bright sunlight as workers continued to shore up the walls of the two towers that have been defined. Remarkably, the two structures are developing very flat walls that stand tall and meet at fairly sharp ninety degree angles. Patrick's assistant Mike spent time today fashioning a column out of clusters of tall saplings, another aspect of the "ruins" theme. With nearly all of our on-site material stripped of its leaves and incorporated into the sculpture it seems as if we'll need more trips to gather sticks.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Day 7

One week into the project and it is apparent that we now not only have walls in our sculpture but doors and windows as well. It seems appropriate that the "home of American Impressionism" might inspire a sculpture in the form of a dwelling. As the stickwork grows up beside the Lieutenant River it is reminiscent, though in a much more fantastic format, of the makeshift artists' studios that dotted the riverbank a century ago.

As the sculpture continues to grow, more and more connections to the Florence Griswold Museum come into focus. Patrick's recent contemplation of ruins, like those of the temple complex at Angkor Wat featured in this month's National Geographic Magazine are inspirations for his work here. In the photos, vines and "strangler" fig trees are seen overtaking the man-made constructions of the Khmer Empire. Many Romantic landscape painters in Europe and America took buildings, cities, and entire empires brought to ruin and returned to nature as their subjects. Even Florence Griswold's house itself can be thought of as a building on the verge of ruin many times in its history.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Day 6

Art took a holiday on the Fourth of July, but the volunteer crew and sculptor Patrick Dougherty were back on duty on Sunday, July 5. The piece is beginning to take visual shape now and the the walls of the tower are solidifying. In this unique photo, Patrick (in his Florence Griswold t-shirt) is seen working with his son, Sam, on the scaffolding overhead. It was a family affair today, as many of our Museum staff members volunteered along with their families as well. It's becoming clear just how many hours of layering the sticks it will take to create the final sculpture. Under Patrick's artistic direction, his volunteer collaborators can all feel and see their hard work as vital contributions to an impressive work of art.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Day 5

As volunteers continued to strip branches of their leaves, Patrick and a few assistants went back to the Kus stumping ground to bring out some taller saplings. These taller trees were immediately stripped and put to use filling the remaining holes that had been dug earlier in the week. The scaffolding circled around and inside of the two emerging towers of trees and the weaving of sticks began. At first, horizontal bands of branches encircled the saplings, but eventually the walls became more and more dense with twigs.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Day 4

The augur arrived this morning and Patrick cautiously dug into our rocky New England soil. By afternoon the team was "planting" some of the larger saplings in the holes to act as the main supports for the structure. First a single sapling went in each hole, and then more to shore it up. The plan that seemed easy enough to read on the ground is getting more and more complicated as the sculpture rises into the third dimension. Before the end of the day, the scaffolding, which had been lying in wait, began to be assembled. Patrick estimates the sculpture will reach about 15 feet and have one or more towers.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Day 3

Although the volunteer crew went down into the woods this morning, the thunderstorms soon brought them out again. Taking shelter from the rain in the new Rafal Landscape Center, the crew got down to stripping leaves from the saplings. Leaves covered everything. Patrick also talked about his plan for the site today, and shared drawings and images of ruins that inspired his thinking on this project. Before the end of the day the first test hole was dug (Patrick's son Sam led the charge) and the general footprint of the sculpture was marked out on the grounds. Of course now that the work day is over the sun is finally coming out again.