40' x 10' x 15'
Commissioned by the Public Art Committee
At Brown: October 2006 - January 2009
Installed on the Front Campus
Made from six tons of willow and maple saplings wrapped around a branch superstructure, Square Roots was constructed on the Front Campus where it stood from October 2006 to January 2009. It is part of Dougherty’s “Stickworks,” a series that consists of over 200 pieces around the world. The nooks and crannies of Square Roots offered students and passers by the opportunity to explore its massive, architectural forms. Its striking presence drew visitors to the lawn, where children played within and around its intersecting surfaces, while other viewers found respite in its shaded interiors.
Over the course of three weeks, itinerate artist Patrick Dougherty and a group of student volunteers wove the saplings together around existing trees, literally connecting the work to the existing landscape. In order to resonate with the surrounding architecture, Dougherty manipulated the curving lines of the saplings into boxy forms, rare in his oeuvre. Wispy patterns of gathered branches contrasted with the hard edges of the interconnected geometric structures in a brilliant display of how artists can effectively challenge and expand the natural limitations of their medium. Square Roots represents a blending of artistic, environmental, and scientific sensibilities. Battered by seasonal weathering, material decomposition, and even a felled tree before its removal in 2009, Square Roots was truly a living sculpture that changed shape and appearance over the course of its tenure here.
Dougherty is a pioneer in the medium of monumental sapling constructions. His childhood in the woods of North Carolina inspired a fascination with the beauty of bare tree branches. He believes that site specificity is essential in public art. To this end, all of his “Stickworks” are built on-site using volunteer labor. He has received numerous awards and exhibited his sculptures worldwide.