Dougherty’s medium is dead trees. Kind of like a writer, I guess, except his work allows him to get a tan every once in a while. He basically builds small buildings out of tons of weaved saplings. The effect comes off like a bird nest transformed into a house, much like Cinderella’s pumpkin magick’d into a carriage. His works are simultaneously familiar and exotic, rustic and sophisticated. And, admittedly, there is a sameness running through them, more so than an artist who continually carves figures out of marble.
And yet, that somehow doesn’t detract from the effect. I can tell you that as a veteran of four sculptures now. Immediately upon seeing one, I have to walk through it like I’ve never encountered anything like it before. Or maybe because I have encountered them before.
My latest venture into a Dougherty edifice was last weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was located in the quadrangle green of a set of five museums known collectively as the Springfield Museums. They include a science museum, two art museums, and a pair of local history museums. They all share the same admission ticket, but we were there for the first on that list, never passing up a chance to see taxidermy, dinosaur bones, and sparkly rocks. It just so happened Dougherty had gotten there before us.
This time, he had concocted a square building set at each corner with a rounded protuberance topped by a rounded minaret. The title of the piece was Room by Room. At its highest points it was probably more than 20 feet tall. Inside, a hallway ran around the exterior wall while in the center was a tall, plain feature that divided the open space. Simple in design, but striking.
Back to Dougherty, nobody has introduced him to spray-on acrylic yet, so all of his works are temporary, as they start decaying from the moment he yells “Voila!” on opening night. In this case, his work will be taken down in June of this year after having been erected in June of last year. The metal Lorax will be there until the end of mankind, though.