A sculpture that looks like a giant nest now adorns the western edge of the lawn of the Center for the Arts in downtown Jackson.
Constructed with woven willow branches, the 17-foot structure was created by the world-renowned artist Patrick Dougherty and his son, Sam, with the help of hundreds of local community members.
“It’s hard to hate a sculpture if your neighbors are working on it, so we are building a vested interest,” Dougherty joked. “But also we need the help.”
Karen Hogan is one of the Jackson residents who participated in the building process as a volunteer. She said she’s been following Dougherty’s work for 20 years and jumped at the opportunity to be involved.
“As an architect, it [the sculpture] was really satisfying to work on, hands-on, because we went from green material to a dried material which hardened and became super, super structural,” Hogan said.
Sourced from willow branches collected from local properties, Dougherty describes his signature technique as “stickwork.” The structure at the Center for the Arts took three weeks to construct and will likely last a couple of years. Dougherty reflected on how he came to work with such impermanent material.
“Artists just start doing things. They make up the reasons later. So for me, it was an expedient use of materials.”
However, as time went on, Dougherty said he began to reflect on all the ways sticks are used – as weapons, tools and imaginative objects for kids, as well as for structural uses throughout natural and human history.
“There are bird nests around you, beaver dams, gorillas make nests at night. And then there are Indigenous tribes and all kinds of furniture makers and basket makers. And historically, it was used as the interiors of a wall.”
Though the sculpture will withstand the snow and weather for a few years, being made of natural materials means it will not last forever. In fact, its impermanence is part of the plan. Dougherty emphasized that the community’s job now is to simply enjoy it while it sticks around.