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Branching in

BREATHING ROOM

March 20, 2008|Debra Prinzing

LOOKING like children's building blocks tossed by giant hands, the assemblage of woven-willow cubes and rectangles conveys kinetic energy. Titled "Catawampus," the installation by Patrick Dougherty beckons from the main path at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia, sunlight slipping between the warp and weft of twigs. The tactile quality of each thread-like branch appeals to me: the in-and-out, the over-and-under. I run my hand along the twisted surface, marveling at the density of 4-inch-thick walls. My fingers stroke the soft tips, velvet against the rough bark.

Like a student of art, I try to deconstruct the organic sculpture in my mind. Is it a modernist bird's nest? Is it a commentary on the fragile balance between nature and architecture? Or is it pure folly, meant only to delight the eye?

I enter and move from one interconnected space to the next. Peering out of window-like openings, I glimpse a maple tree, its new green leaves about to unfurl. Through another portal I see an early-blooming magnolia. And through the "skylight" at the top? The pure blue sky of spring.

-- Debra Prinzing

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