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Patrick Dougherty’s forthcoming installation will give new meaning to ‘temporary housing’

After more than 3 years of planning, international artist Patrick Dougherty will visit Wichita to begin a new outdoor art installation on the grounds at Mark Arts, the construction of a very large-scale house made entirely of harvested tree saplings. The saplings, all locally sourced from pre-approved sites around Wichita, will be collected on May 2nd through May 5th and brought to Mark Arts by over 100 recently chosen volunteers, who will also assist the artist in the actual construction of the art installation, which will begin on May 5th and continue to May 20th.

The installation, titled simply “STICKWORK,” involves intricate twisting and weaving of the saplings in a style developed by Dougherty.

Mark Arts gallery and program director Chloe Lang told me that the quality of Patrick Dougherty’s work is such that this installation can survive on the Mark Arts campus through up to 3 years of Kansas rain, heat, wind, and snow. Lang helped find the many locations where the saplings will be harvested and says that Dougherty is very selective about which types of trees he needs to work with, including a type of willow that is commonly found growing in river bottoms and on sand bars. The saplings are known for their hearty quality and their ability to bend and twist. All leaves and smaller branches must be hand-stripped from each sapling.

77-year-old Dougherty created his first piece of stickwork art in 1982, applying his carpentry skills to his love of nature by studying primitive techniques of building and experimenting with saplings as a building material. It will be exciting for Wichitans to see this home under construction, even if it is temporary housing.

Mark Arts will host Patrick Dougherty for an artist talk on May 17 and a gala opening on May 20.

Curt Clonts is a Wichita-born artist who volunteers as KMUW's art reviewer. When Curt isn’t working in his College Hill studio he is usually spending time with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He also spends the spring and summer months kayaking and camping.