Natural History: Patrick Dougherty at BBG

The view from within.
Natural History, Patrick Dougherty at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Blog Widow and I observed Veteran’s Day by visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The Fall foliage was still brilliant, especially in the Bonsai Museum. My other must-see destination was “Natural History,” BBG’s first site-specific installation, by Patrick Dougherty. This was my first visit to the Garden since it was installed in August:

The sculpture at BBG is woven from nonnative woody material that was collected from Ocean Breeze Park on Staten Island. The harvesting site was chosen by BBG’s director of Science because of its proximity to the Garden and its large population of nonnative willow (Salix atrocinerea), which is designated an invasive species in New York State. Removal of saplings of this species helped protect the site’s excellent assemblage of herbaceous plants. The park is owned by the City of New York and is targeted for restoration under the City’s PlaNYC sustainability initiative.

During a visit to BBG a year before beginning the work, Dougherty drew sketches and made word associations based on the feelings he experienced while exploring the potential work site. When asked about some of the words that came to mind as he contemplated what he wanted to build in Brooklyn, Dougherty smiled and said “lairs; a place for feral children and wayward adults.”

The sculpture will be on display until August 2011, when it will be dismantled. It’s going to look awesome in snow.


Related Content

Flickr photo set

Fall Foliage at BBG’s Bonsai Museum, 2010-11-16

Labels: Brooklyn Botanic Garden


Natural History at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Patrick Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty at BBG

I’m looking forward to this. Installation will take place from Thursday, August 5 through Sunday, August 31. The work is planned to be on display for nearly a year, through June 2011.

Press Release

Brooklyn, July 10, 2010—Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) announces the commission of its first site-specific sculpture to celebrated artist Patrick Dougherty, whose massive constructions made of woven saplings and twigs conjure up the creations of Lewis Carroll and Andy Goldsworthy for their outsized physicality and whimsical charm.

Dougherty began developing concepts for the work during a July 2009 visit to BBG, when he selected the Plant Family Collection—the physical and horticultural heart of the Garden—as the site of the future work. The final design will be revealed when construction gets under way in the first week of August 2010.

Dougherty sees himself in the tradition of artists for whom the process is as important as the end result, and his particular artistic process engages the expertise of staff throughout Brooklyn Botanic Garden. To locate a source for the saplings required for the sculpture, for example, BBG’s director of Science, Dr. Gerry Moore, called upon his field knowledge garnered during the Garden’s 20-year study of flora in the metropolitan area. He settled on Ocean Breeze Park on Staten Island, about 13 miles from Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which has an abundance of nonnative willow (Salix atrocinerea), a species typically targeted for removal. BBG Horticulture staff will oversee removal of the invasive plant material over a period of days, providing the double service of facilitating Dougherty’s project and improving the balance of native species in the park.

During the rest of August, the sculpture will be brought to glorious life under Dougherty’s direction, aided by a corps of assistants from the Garden’s staff and volunteers. Some helpers will be scaling scaffolding to manage the vertical support poles; others will be instructed in the artist’s signature weaving process, which lends Dougherty’s sculpture its structural strength and visual dynamism.

Dougherty’s career melds his technical carpentry skills with his lifelong love of the outdoors. He began creating sculpture in 1980, fashioning single pieces in his backyard. Since then, he has created nearly 200 pieces for institutions and galleries. For more information about Patrick Dougherty at BBG, visit For more information about Brooklyn Botanic Garden, visit

Contact: Kate Blumm, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
718-623-7241 |


Patrick Dougherty at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Patrick Dougherty

Curation by Crowd

Via the Coney Island Flickr group, I just learned that the Brooklyn Museum of Art will be holding an open call for submissions during March for a photographic exhibit this summer:

Click! is an exhibition in three consecutive parts. It begins with an open call—artists are asked to electronically submit a work of photography that responds to the exhibition’s theme, “Changing Faces of Brooklyn,” along with an artist statement.
Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition

The open call runs from March 1 through 31, after which the submissions will be judged by the public:

After the conclusion of the open call, an online forum opens for audience evaluation of all submissions; as in other juried exhibitions, all works will be anonymous. As part of the evaluation, each visitor answers a series of questions about his/her knowledge of art and perceived expertise.

Open Call (March 1–March 31, 2008)
Evaluation (April 1–May 23, 2008)
Exhibition (June 27–August 10, 2008)

It’s an interesting project.

I definitely want to submit some of my photos. Taking “faces” literally, the theme is challenging to me. I don’t have many photos of people, though I have some in mind. One could also interpret “faces” to refer to the developing and decaying infrastructures of Brooklyn, from mega-projects to street corners. Other ideas?


Brooklyn Museum of Art

December 8, Red Hook: Observing the Edge

This looks interesting:

Brooklynites know better than anyone the havoc that development can wreak on a habitat. So on Saturday, Dec. 8, the Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook will host an artist’s talk on “Observing the Edge,” the gallery’s current show, which features works on paper relating to flora and fauna with habitats threatened by progressive development.

… anyone who has seen plants, or any other living creatures, displaced by development will surely want to take notice.
Cutting ‘Edge’, Daniel Goldberg, The Brooklyn Paper

(Note: The Brooklyn Paper gave the date incorrectly as 12/4.)


Kentler International Drawing Space
353 Van Brunt Street
Red Hook/Brooklyn, New York 11231
Tel: 718-875-2098

Why I Garden: The Sensual Garden

First Cicada Molt of 2007, photo taken May 27 in my backyard in Flatbush, Brooklyn
First Cicada Molt of 2007

I’m afraid I have nothing of my own to offer up here. I was struck by the intersection of recent posts from two seemingly unconnected bloggers in the communities of gardening and Brooklyn, from Garden Rant and Blather in Brooklyn.

Yesterday, from Garden Rant:

In the archaeological museum in Naples, I learned something else about how the ancient Romans gardened–with loads of erotic art. For over 200 years, one of the great embarrassments of the excavation of Pompeii and Herculaneum–another ancient city in the Bay of Naples buried in ash at the same moment–were all the dirty things that were dug up.
Sex in the Garden

And I just read today, from Blather in Brooklyn:

When the [Salon des Refusés] opened, Manet’s painting [Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass)] caused a public outcry. The critics were not offended by the nudity, but by the fact that the nudes had no supernatural or religious connotations; rather, they were shown as real people, modern, recognizable Parisians enjoying what appeared to be a bawdy, drunken picnic on the grass.
Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe

Definitely visit both blogs to read the full posts.

Gardening in the nude would not present my neighbors with the sensual delights presented by Manet and the artists of Pompeii, so I shouldn’t start now. Despite my modesty and discretion, nature and gardens have always been sensual experiences for me.

Biophilia is strong in me. Diane Ackerman‘s A Natural History of the Senses spoke to me like many others.

One of my earliest memories comes from outside a school playground. The maple tree there was surrounded by fallen leaves, crisp and brilliant. I stood among them, holding one particularly colorful leaf, examining it until a teacher broke my trance.

I have an earlier memory of sitting in the garden on the side of our first house. I pulled up almost all the baby carrots, grabbing their leaves and eating them right there, dirt and all. In my mind, the whole scene is illuminated by the filtered green light from the sun shining through the tomato plants towering over me.

I’m not always conscious of it, but when I garden, I engage and satiate all my senses. I garden to be surrounded by nature, to welcome it to me, to lose myself in it. The taste of Nasturiums, the movement and rustling of grasses, the shades of green in a single Hosta leaf, the perfume of rosemary, the songs of catbirds and cicadas. These ephemeral moments are why I garden.