Photo by Karla Lopez/22 West

The Life Cycle of Art

A “larger than life” childhood nostalgic art piece

Story and Photo by Karla Lopez, Editor

In the brink of the upcoming spring season, the nature-enthusiast sculpture artist Patrick Dougherty gifts Long Beach Museum of Art (LBMA) a ceramic collection-inspired willow installation named “Buddy, Buddy”.

“I tried to make it friendly and bring the nostalgia of sticks from childhood at the same time,” says Dougherty.

The four “imaginative” shaped willow branch installations were compiled over the span of three days with the help of over 100 volunteers. Most of which are local according to LBMA Gallery Manager and Museum Coordinator Karen Steffani.

Material for the willow installations were transported from Owens Valley. According to Dougherty, no issues arose when figuring out where to gather willow material since he had contacts to go to.

Patrick Dougherty stands in front of ceramic collection-inspired willow installation, “Buddy, Buddy.”

The success of the transportation and the quantity of the material brought the final outcome of the childhood nostalgic piece to surpass the barriers of the LBMA outdoor cement walls. Four vase-like willow sculptures can be seen from the outside of LBMA.

“I wanted to make the piece accessible for locals and help people build fond feelings over it too,” says Dougherty.

The volunteer opportunity is not only available to locals. Dougherty trustees and committed followers, like volunteer Susan Carpenter from Iowa, make their way to help with new projects.

Dougherty believes that volunteers experience firsthand the life cycle of art which is primarily the collection of material and the outcome of the piece. As the volunteers work with each other to emphasize the sense of community, they learn the beauty of natural decomposing of the willow and the use of it.

“The life cycle that is built into the growth and decay of saplings,” says Dougherty in a documentary film entitled “Bending Sticks.”

Dougherty’s love for nature and community began in his early carpentry works with tree saplings. The hands-on skills allowed for his smooth transition into creating nature-appreciative monumental works.

His first work, “Maple Body Wrap” from 1982, still holds a special place in the North Carolina Museum of Art. The piece itself has been given recognition for being placed in the North Carolina Biennial Artists’ exhibition.

It is noted in Dougherty’s artistic growth of the loss in his fear of museums, he had reportedly stated that growing into his interest of art took a lot of push. He feared going into museums to gather ideas, according to an interview with Fernwood.

Now, Long Beach locals can enjoy the “larger than life” pieces composed by Dougherty at LBMA from March and on-going months. The exhibition does not have a clear end date, according to the LBMA official website.

“People will get a good association out of the piece, that’s all what matters,” says Dougherty.


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