Last fall, my children and I were fortunate enough to visit the Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark here in Dayton during an exhibit of the work of Patrick Dougherty.
The work was like Dr. Seuss took a basket weaving class taught by Tim Burton. It took over 1000 hours of local volunteer work to complete. The finished work is a coil of tunnels and half-ceilings, hidden cubbies and doorways.
It was surreal, interactive, and felt like a home. The ‘Wiggle in It’s Walk’ sculpture is a departure from Dougherty’s other works that I have admired from afar (i.e. on the interwebs). This one is like a habitat, a friendly neighborhood of interwoven hallways and rooms. His other stick work is usually reminiscent of spider nests, soft-serve ice cream, and cottages.
We felt like little birds or squirrels, realized in human form. Like what Strawberry Shortcake’s or the Smurfs neighborhood should be like. We were outdoors, but inside. Curious, peeking here and there and laughing with other people. Strangers who were experiencing the work in much the same way.
The willow branches were formed to create not only doorways, but also windows that looked out onto the surrounding gardens. Each window created a frame for the landscape.
Hey, when you have three kids, you have to do a shot like this once in a while. I enjoyed sharing Dougherty’s work with my children, and caught more than a few adults skipping through like they were kids themselves. When you’re made to feel smaller than sticks, who can resist? I feel like this was something pure and whimsical, and those moments don’t come by very often in life.
This summer, take a day trip to Dayton, bring a picnic lunch, and enjoy this unique work at the gardens. It was built to last at least two years, but life happens, so be sure to put this one on your calendar. I promise you won’t be disappointed. More information on the exhibit.