Thursday, February 26, 2009

Patrick Dougherty and The Upper Crust

Patrick Dougherty and his crew finished their sculpture in the trees of Civic Center Plaza on Tuesday afternoon.

Dougherty is pictured above in the middle and is flanked by the young artists Jamie Banes, John Melvin, Andy Lynch and Dave Lovejoy who labored in the rain and wind for the last three weeks constructing the piece. (Jesse Hensel, the fifth assistant, is not pictured.)

The sculpture has acquired an official name, "The Upper Crust," which may have something to do with the wealthy patrons Dougherty was dealing with on the San Francisco Art Commission, but Patrick was keeping a tactful silence when I asked him if that was the case.

"The title partly refers to the work being an upper crust on the existing trees, and it definitely gets a bit crusty on the ground around here," he explained.

I asked his assistants if the local street people were a problem when they were constructing the sculpture and they said no, it was part of what made the experience so fascinating. "I've never interacted with so many authentically crazy people in my life," one of them said. "The questions were amazing."

The original plan was to have two sets of sculptures mirroring each other across the plaza but the work required two trees rather than one for supporting the nest structures, and in a bout of improvisation, they decided to use all the materials in one linked area.

"Are you happy with the way it turned out?" I asked Dougherty. "Yes, I am," he replied with real contentment. It will be fascinating to see how the piece evolves as the trees sprout their leaves over spring and summer.


momo said...

Thank you for documenting this process. I wish I could see it in person. I'll have to ask my mother to go down there and report back to me!

AphotoAday said...

Please accept my apologies, but I've just got to say it:

Art is art, and I like most all of it, but to be really honest, I don't like this installation at all... It's probably the dumbest "art" I've seen in years!

But I'd give it an "E" for Effort -- obviously the artist and crew put a lot of work into it, but it does absolutely nothing for me...

All I can think of is those poor tortured Sycamore trees that the "artwork" imposes on.   Actually the City already persecutes those poor Sycamores by constantly pruning them instead of just letting them grow tall and broad -- but of course the City COULDN'T allow anything like that in our parks and on our sidewalks.

And you mean to say that they're not going to take it down soon?   Move over, Frank Chu, now I'VE got something to protest!

So, I'll get off my soapbox now... Please forgive me.   Fine reporting on the installation, however, Mike -- keep up the great work!

Civic Center said...

Dear Donald: Good rant. I like the "artwork," but I can see hating it.

Unknown said...

Actually those trees look very healthy, they are 'pollarded' which is a common practice in Europe. After pollarding if they were not pruned yearly they would grow out and quickly break and die. I'm sure that the artist took care to make sure the trees were not hurt and are more than capable of supporting the sculpture. I happen to like Mr. Dougherty's work, though not seeing it in person it's hard to fully appreciate. In any case, I think you'd be hard pressed to find public art that EVERYONE likes! At least if you don't like this, you can rejoice in it's decay.