Monday, August 24, 2009

Watching The Rambles

Since the completion of Patrick Dougherty's sculpture The Rambles on the campus of the Florence Griswold Museum we've noticed a definite increase in the number of visitor wandering our grounds and taking photos of this enormous stickwork. We thought we'd share a few hundred of our photos with you in the form of a 6 minute video set to a familiar piece of music, the "Miss Florence Rag," written and performed specifically for the Florence Griswold Museum by Neely Bruce. We hope this look at how the sculpture was made, as well as our new website about the project, will entice you to come and see it in person. Enjoy!

Friday, August 07, 2009

A note from the artist, Patrick Dougherty

The work is entitled The Rambles, and I am proud of the sculpture which resulted from my residency. With the museum's help, I was able to find and gather birch saplings from several sites around Old Lyme, CT and transport them to the museum. Volunteers removed the leaves from the branches and then proceeded to help with the weaving process. I use the infuriating tendency of branches to entangle with one another as my method of joining and then worked at a breakneck speed to complete the sculpture. The work, encased in scaffolding during its construction, provided working platforms but also aided in the bending and tying of the larger support saplings into the desired shape. Ultimately all strings were removed and the smaller saplings, which had been intertwined by volunteers, secured the work. I thought of the sculpture not only three dimensionally but also concentrated on the outer surface as a canvas on which to draw. Sticks are the material of bird nests, but they are also bundles of lines. All the drawing conventions used with paper and pencil still apply.

I was given a beautiful site—behind the museum, but still visible through the large window wall in the lobby-gift shop. All in all, visitors need only walk a short distance to enter and explore the work. The sculpture is sited to take advantage of the bucolic view of the Lieutenant River, a classic vista for the painters who visited Florence Griswold so long ago.

When I began to search for an image or a starting point to guide the creation of the work at the Florence Griswold Museum, I imagined the garden follies of previous eras. In the past, those who had means sometimes festooned their gardens with strange architecture and even built intentional ruins. These structures were meant to evoke mystery and stimulate a longing for bygone days. They offered a kind of poetic drama as nature reclaimed the manmade. I have been intrigued by ruins all over the world because vine cover, tree roots and unruly branches are often the first blush of architectural decay. For me it is like throwing a dust cloth over a piece of furniture which can obscure the detail but cannot deny the basic manmade form. With this in mind, I envisioned a kind of drapery for the museum's imaginary ruin—one with a 22' high round tower, a square tower and many architectural features in between. The viewers are invited in to explore the interior, to walk in some doors and peer around others. In The Rambles, the energy of the natural world seems frozen in the drawn surfaces as all the unassuming sticks gathered by the volunteers in the first few days take on presence and new meaning. With only a hint of underlying geometry, this backyard folly has no core of stone or wooden beams. As the scaffolding was removed on the final day, it was as if an insect chrysalis had finally opened and an enormous sapling slipcover had been shaken free and set out to dry.