Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Explorations and Curiosities

Branching Out

May-June 2015

<i>Summer Palace,</i> 2009, in Philadelphia

Summer Palace, 2009, in Philadelphia

Photograph courtesy of Patrick Dougherty/Peabody Essex Museum

Patrick Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty

Photograph courtesy of Patrick Dougherty/Peabody Essex Museum

<i>Sortie de Cave</i> (Free At Last), 2008, in Chateaubourg, France

Sortie de Cave (Free At Last), 2008, in Chateaubourg, France

Photograph courtesy of Patrick Dougherty/Peabody Essex Museum

What it will be, nobody exactly knows: neither the 50 volunteers who will have happily trudged for hours through muddy woodlands north of Boston to gather tractor-trailer loads of saplings—linden, beech, Norwegian maple, depending on what the thaw has yielded—nor the artist himself, Patrick Dougherty. Only during the three weeks spent laying out those saplings, planting some, and then bending, twisting, and weaving them all together do the final, fantastical forms emerge. The work opens to the public on May 23. Dougherty, who hails from North Carolina and earned degrees in English and hospital administration before pursuing art, has erected more than 250 such sapling-based structures across the country and around the world during the last three decades. Judging from these, what ends up on the lawn of the colonial-era Crowninshield-Bentley House in Salem, Massachusetts, on May 23, might feature turrets or Russian onion domes, or look like a condensed Moroccan palace. It could resemble a softer, sway-backed version of Stonehenge, a clump of medieval thatched huts, or skinny teepees pushed askew by the wind. Dougherty’s constructions tend to have doors and windows, but they are not homes. “Seussical” is too whimsical a description; the dreamscapes are more suited to a van Gogh landscape, or even The Scream. What might add another twist in Salem is whether, and how, Dougherty juxtaposes his installation with the symmetrical, squared-off Georgian-style home and its formal front entrance. Built by fish merchant and sea captain John Crowninshield in 1727, the house is a historic site now owned by the Peabody Essex Museum, which commissioned Dougherty’s work. Whatever the resulting forms, they are expected to stay up for two years—unless nature reclaims them first.

Harvard Squared

A guide to the arts and culture, history, cuisine, and natural beauty of Cambridge, Boston, and beyond

You Might Also Like:

A portrait of Benjamin Franklin painted by Robert Feke

Robert Feke’s rendering of Benjamin Franklin

Courtesy of the Harvard University Portrait Collection, Bequest of Dr. John Collins Warren, 1856

Benjamin Franklin’s Retirement and Reinvention

Maureen Freely

Photograph by Andre Avanessian

Found in Translation

Bob Dylan in 1965. Already, the classical world was starting to influence his writing.

Photograph from Granger

Harvard classicist Richard Thomas on Bob Dylan

You Might Also Like:

A portrait of Benjamin Franklin painted by Robert Feke

Robert Feke’s rendering of Benjamin Franklin

Courtesy of the Harvard University Portrait Collection, Bequest of Dr. John Collins Warren, 1856

Benjamin Franklin’s Retirement and Reinvention

Bob Dylan in 1965. Already, the classical world was starting to influence his writing.

Photograph from Granger

Harvard classicist Richard Thomas on Bob Dylan

Maureen Freely

Photograph by Andre Avanessian

Found in Translation