Art in the Park
A living fort debuts in Hermann Park: Your imagination will run wild in this new labyrinth
I could swear I was meandering inside corridors that connect huts within an Ewok village somewhere in the Forest Moon of Endor. I was prepared for an encounter with one of the funny looking furry creatures until I realized I wasn't carrying a candy bar or something similar.
How else would one befriend the little darlings and avoid being the "featured" guest for dinner?
Whatever fantastical milieu you glean from experiencing "stick work" artist Patrick Dougherty's installation at Hermann Park is par for the course. Dougherty wants his organic environment, a type of woody labyrinth, to rouse the imagination in adults and children alike.
"It's basically a web of simple shelters of another name, a call back to the Garden of Eden or a childhood fort," Dougherty explains. "I always think a successful sculpture gives at least some personal associations as a starting point for looking at the work."
The sculpture is the first in a series of public art works that remind Houstonians that Hermann Park has been around for 100 years. The Centennial Art Project, Art in the Park, aims to activate the park's 445 acres with interactive pieces from nationally recognized artists. An ad hoc committee was formed to curate the contemporary commissions, which include pieces by Trenton Doyle Hancock, Orly Genger, Yvonne Domenge, Louise Borgeois, Sharon Engelstein and Ugo Rondinone.
"I always think a successful sculpture gives at least some personal associations as a starting point for looking at the work."
Dougherty's untitled installation, located near the Pioneer Memorial Obelisk in the Molly Ann Smith Plaza and adjacent to the Japanese Gardens, is crafted from sticks sourced from a commercial park in Northeast Houston. Supported by a strong architectural framework, the pliable natural resource is weaved through the structure in a way that creates the allusion of an intrinsic flow, from the sticks' broader trunks to the tapered extremities.
The resulting effect is one of a static form that appears to undulate with inner motion — like wind or water, Dougherty says, as if it were a living thing. Fitting considering that the work is expected to tolerate five years of Houston's climate.
More than 150 volunteers participated in the creation of the site-specific work. Passersby who were intrigued to learn about the curious design weren't shy to join in the creative fun, cutting, bending and entwining saplings as the walls swelled from the base.
"We have 20,000 volunteer hours that help make the park look so spectacular, so the 150 volunteer that are taking part in Patrick's work is a microcosm of what we do in the park as a whole everyday," Doreen Stoller, Hermann Park Conservancy executive director, tells CultureMap. "For people who visit the park all the time, this gives them the opportunity to look at the park in a different way.
"As you wonder through it, you get a different view of the park from the sculpture as well as how the sculpture fits in with the park."
An opening reception with Dougherty in attendance is set for Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. in the north and south ends of the Jones Reflection Pool. Yvonne Domenge's Ferrari-red orb, titled Wind Waves, will also debut alongside Dougherty's fanciful world.
Why not bring some treats? Just to be on the safe side. Here's a helpful tip: Na goo means stop in Ewokese.
Watch the CultureMap video (above) for a closer look at the installation plus commentary from Dougherty and Stoller.