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Patrick Dougherty's Sculptures 'Inclined' to Come Down

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I miss them already. The strange-looking, twisty, teepee-esque sculptures, a grouping of botanical buddies that lean slightly, as if whispering secrets to each other. "So Inclined," the installation in front of the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College, is coming down. Talk about planned obsolescence.

Renowned artist Patrick Dougherty created the site-specific sculpture in 2007, with the help of more than 200 local volunteers and from dogwood saplings harvested in Weybridge. The word "temporary" was built in. Today, Dougherty returns to campus for a talk about this, and other projects, at 4:30 p.m. in Room 221 of the Mahaney Center.

If you want to know why Dougherty believes in taking down what he has put up — "So Inclined" is soon to be chipped and recycled as compost — go to his talk and ask him.

Middlebury College is also inviting comments from visitors, and memories from those who helped install the sculpture four years ago, on a blog on the school's website.

Anyone who might find themselves nostalgic for "So Inclined," or wants to find out about more of Dougherty's installations, should pick up his recent monograph, Stickwork. Word has it the artist will be signing copies following his talk today.

Walking through Dougherty's sculptures is transformative, probably in ways unique to each visitor. For me, the spaces he creates feel intimate, contemplative; they manage to recall the magic of a childhood playhouse with a grown-up awareness of the evanescence of life. I've seen only one other work of Dougherty's firsthand, at the Joslyn Art Museum in my hometown of Omaha, Nebr. That one is called "Story-Telling Hut" and presides over the museum's "Discovery Garden. Aptly named.

Note to Patrick: Please return to Vermont to build another stickwork. My yard is available.

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