In September 2010, sculptor Patrick Dougherty and a team of helpers constructed the temporary installation Easy Rider in the Dumbarton Oaks Ellipse, an oval space framed by a double row of pruned hornbeams that form an aerial hedge. Dougherty, well known for sculptures of woven saplings, responded to both the monumentality and the static quality of the space by adding a series of what he describes as “running figures,” or twisted architectural elements, that rise into the trees and pursue each other actively and gracefully around the Ellipse.
The sculpture was constructed in 21 days with a team of volunteers using a variety of saplings, chiefly maples. It evokes some of the oldest forms of building and garden design, and is particularly evocative of the organic or rustic architecture that was a feature of 18th-century garden arbors, pavilions, and furnishings, especially in England.
The installation was organized by the Garden and Landscape Studies program at Dumbarton Oaks in cooperation with the Garden staff. It is the second in an occasional series of contemporary art installations at Dumbarton Oaks intended to provide fresh interpretations and experiences of the Gardens and art collections of Dumbarton Oaks.
Combining his carpentry skills with his love of nature, Patrick Dougherty began to learn about primitive techniques of building and to experiment with tree saplings as construction material. Beginning about 1980 with small works fashioned in his backyard, he quickly moved from single pieces on conventional pedestals to monumental, site-specific installations that require sticks by the truckload. To date he has built over two hundred such massive sculptures all over the world.
Images by Alexander Tokovinine, Joseph Mills, and Jane Padelford.