Sunday, August 2, 2015

"a bird in the hand" public sculpture, by patrick dougherty

Recently my wife and I made a visit to Reston Towne Center, in Reston, Virginia. Perhaps the highlight of the visit was the curious, giant bird nest-like structure we had stumbled upon, sitting in the middle of the park. Upon closer examination, we noticed that you could walk through it, as kids and adults were doing. It turned out to be a large-scale public sculpture by American artist Patrick Dougherty, called "A Bird in the Hand".  Kris and I had way too much fun walking through and around the structure, and it made for some great photo ops. I had later posted some photos of it on Facebook, and quickly a few folks asked exactly where it was and expressed interest in visiting it. This made me think of one art lesson in particular, that I have my third-grade students work on, revolving around public sculpture. I ask my students, what is the value of public art, sculpture in particular, both on a practical and non-practical level. I'm also reminded of a great documentary "The Gates", featuring the work of that very name, by artist duo Christo and Jeanne Claude. For over twenty years, they had envisioned and diligently fought for this huge project to happen in Central Park in NYC, and were rejected, by both the authorities and by much of the public. In the end, the duo was victorious, and the results were magical. Naysayers became believers, and while the project did indeed cost some money to build, it created great revenue for the city, as art lovers and sight-seerers the world over flocked to Central Park to see, and more importantly experience Jeanne Claude and Christo's vision, which was now a reality. It is important to note that Christo and Jeanne Claude fully funded their sculpture projects through sales of their equally incredible pre-sketches, drawings and paintings, which easily went for tens of thousands of dollars.

Last week, I spied yet another Patrick Dougherty sculpture in another local public park where there was a lot of new commerce and businesses happening, and again, people were enjoying its presence. Public sculpture, like that of Dougherty's, or Jeanne Claude's and Christo's, or that of Claes Oldenburg's (who I focus on during my lesson with third grade students), brings visual interest and a new level of culture to an area. It also takes people away from the typical and the ordinary, if not for a little while. And, from a practical standpoint, it can generate revenue by attracting visitors to an area. If you're in the Reston, VA area, see if you can find Patrick's new piece, featured here at this post, and see how many more public sculptures you can locate and identify.