Stumbled Upon Dougherty’s Stickwork Project in Salem, MA: Reminiscent of the haunting stories of witch trials

On a routine trip to Boston to visit family and reconnect with my northern roots, my family and I took a day trip to Salem, MA. Not really going with any particular agenda in mind, we walked the historic town and stumbled upon Patrick Dougherty’s Stickwork project, What the Birds Know, commissioned by Peabody Essex Museum.

The sculpture stretches across the radius of the Washington/Essex intersection in front of the Crowninshield Bentley House. The work, inspired by the gabled, shingled homes of Colonial-style architecture, has a haunting feel as the structures tilt and sway organically in multiple directions as if moving in the wind. These ghost-like forms include large circular openings that mimic howling or screaming (think Edvard Munch’s The Scream), another “spooky” visual element that hints at Salem’s infamous witch trials and the ghost stories that remain.

Although I’m uncertain about Dougherty’s intent to create haunting forms in this work, the installation unquestionably feels at home in this place.


The backside (not shown above but can be viewed here) mimics the European Turret, typically made of stone, found in Europe and the UK (think Medieval Castle towers). The juxtaposition of the different architectural styles represents the transition from the Old World to the New (Dougherty, 2015).

Later during our walk, prior to leaving for the afternoon, we made a special trip to the Salem Witch trials memorial, an incredibly moving site if you have not been there before. I have visited a few times and each time, I leave truly solemn and in deep reflection. Perhaps because the memorial reflects the persecution of a group of people who were different from the norm of society, living in a world driven by fear in a system that would not protect them (The Salem Award Foundation, 1992) — a story that unfortunately is not new or estranged in our history, nor extinct in our present.

Below is one of the twenty stone “benches” in the memorial. Each victim’s name is carved in all caps, old-style lettering – a simple, beautiful and direct solution to honor those that lost their lives unjustly. One stone bench is dedicated to each victim.


The memorial is realized primarily through stone and typography. The stones representing people, both the accused and the silent spectators, and the typography representing the protests of the victims.



Spatial Interventions

Crosswalks in the Park: Civic-Minded Improvements

After city regulations halted the Art Crosswalks project in conjunction with Downtown Memphis Commission, local artists at MCA with volunteer community members executed their designs in partnership with Overton Park.

This project crosses the boundaries between artistic interventions, broadly defined as public art that encourages moments of pause, contemplation, even participation and play and civic-minded improvements or tactical urbanism, broadly defined as functional urban developments with intent to improve communities.

The art crosswalks, not only add moments of pause but also improve the community’s safety by supporting pedestrians and foot traffic and discouraging drivers from speeding around intersections and blind corners in the park.

Two locations were facilitated, one at the corner of Veterans Plaza Drive and one at the intersection of the Zoo entrance and Brooks Museum. Local artists included Ashley Segarra and Dezmond Gipson. Photography by Natalie Schuh.


Spatial Interventions

The Revival of the Chelsea Flood Wall: Community activates Future Site of the Greenline

As a sort of citizen-driven placemaking endeavor, this example of artistic intervention serves as a catalyst for greater change in the under-served area of N.Evergreen and Chelsea.

The design, inspired by the post-industrial aspects of the site and fused with concepts of geometry and optical art, provides a sense of movement, change, and altered perspective that references messages of a reimagined, renewed or revived site.

The project was made possible by an Autozone Artszone grant and the support of local community members and Greater Memphis Greenline. The project was facilitated by MCA design professor, Cat Normoyle and a select local team.

The work, completed in late March of 2015, initiated the later public art graffiti project, Paint Memphis, aligned with the Hip Hop festival in July to paint the remaining 70+ panels. The revived Chelsea flood wall is now a permission wall.

The green area in front of the wall is the future site of Greater Memphis Greenline, a walking and biking path that connects downtown Memphis to Shelby Farms Park.

Spatial Interventions

Community Members fight blight in South Memphis

Over a three-day work session, Memphis College of Art under the direction of Cat Normoyle, leads a community public art project in South Memphis. Students who participated in this project include Noah Miller, Taylor Touchstone, King Hobson, and Eugenia Mosley.

The project was forged from discussions between Cat Normoyle and Dorian Spears (Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team + 25 Square Initiative). Spears put Normoyle in touch with the organization Knowledge Quest who was looking to reclaim and beautify an abandoned apartment complex in their neighborhood through art and education. Funding for the project was provided by a grant from Autozone.

The Need

Knowledge Quest boarded up windows and doors of the abandoned site at 1042 S. Lauderdale Street earlier in the year. They hoped to add artwork to the boards of the apartment complex that was two-fold; Walls 1-4 would focus on healthy eating and their community garden and Walls 5-8 would focus on education and literacy.

1042 S. Lauderdale Vacant Apartment Complex (photo credit: Shawna Engel)
1042 S. Lauderdale Vacant Apartment Complex (photo credit: Shawna Engel)

The Vision

While creating the artwork for the mural, I wanted to stay true to the space we were working with so I thought of the boards as “windows” into a bigger picture. I also wanted the windows to be a sort of reflection of the community in which it resides.

With that in mind, I started to develop The Gardens which flow in and out of the lower-level windows of Walls 1-4. I wanted The Garden to look as green and fresh and fun as possible to reflect upon the vibrant and diverse community. The upper-level windows show children waving from their bedrooms and clouds floating in the bright sky.

As we rotate around the building to view The Library mural, the upper-level sky transitions into a romantic evening sky where children read under lamp light. The lower-level windows peer into the library where infinite book shelves of imaginative and magical worlds of reading are emphasized.

The Gardens (photo credit: Natalie Fleenor)
The Library (photo credit: Natalie Fleenor)

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A look at Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer’s use of Typography

How do artists, Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, use typography as a major component of their work? What messages do the artists wish to convey and how does each compare and contrast?
Looking specifically at examples of typographic art on three-dimensional architecture, how do Kruger and Holzer use similar techniques to showcase work? How are they different? How does their approach and end-result differ?

Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer are both American conceptual artists that use typography as a major component of their work and more currently, explore typographic art in three-dimensional spaces. Both artists use bold typefaces and declarative sentence structures to communicate public messages. Sometimes the messages are simple and short while other times the messages are longer statements or borrowed excerpts from famous writers. In both cases, Kruger and Holzer tend to work with copy that explores the notions of consumerism and communication media.



Specifically, Kruger’s self-entitled exhibition at the Mary Boone Gallery in 1991 is a large-scale installation where text and images are directly placed on the walls, ceilings, and floors. The enclosed space immerses the viewer with messages and graphics that utilize the energy of the architecture to enforce Kruger’s message. The text on the floor is a bold white on a red surface and reads “All that seemed beneath you is speaking to you now. All that seemed deaf hears you. All that seemed dumb knows what’s on your mind. All that seemed blind sees through you. All that seemed silent is putting the words right into your mouth.”

Kruger’s work, in this case, speaks directly to the viewer via the surfaces of the interior, instead of her previous work that primarily was based in two-dimensions. Although she has changed the medium for her work, she continues to use her characteristic red, white, and black color scheme, bold typeface, and simple graphics that we have seen in her previous work.

Another example of text in an architectural environment is her more recent work showcased at the Lever House in New York entitled, “Between Being Born and Dying.” Like the previous self-entitled exhibition, this exhibit uses the three dimensionality of the gallery space to enclose words and phrases on walls, floors, and windows. In this case, however Kruger does not use any graphics, simply Helvetica bold font in black and white. She does continue to use pithy slogans, questions and phrases, which confront, inform, and humor the viewer with their nonchalance.


Jenny Holzer uses typography in installation art employing three-dimensional structures in urban environments. She uses a similar sans serif font face that reads clearly and boldly from a distance however, instead of using print and working in gallery spaces, Holzer projects type in public spaces. In this case, Holzer must consider how the type will lay onto the exterior of a building, leaving some of the design to the nature of the building’s form.

Her first major project in 1977 named the Truism series, conveyed personally written “truisims” regarding biases and beliefs. In her work, Holzer asks the passerby-ers to engage in the work and not necessarily the art community. In this sense, her work can be classified as street art as she creates edgy commentary to surprise the unsuspecting public viewer. She discovered text as a medium and the public space as an ideal site for her art.  With the written word, Holzer aims to break open social and political structures. Her words are all profound and are meant to enlighten the viewer, while still maintaining a love for the beauty of language.

As Holzer’s work progressed from the Truism series, she continued to use typographic art but did less writing on her own. Instead some of her current work is collaborative with famous writers or found text. For the City (2005), a series of light projections on Rockefeller Center, Bobst Library, New York University and The New York Public Library uses texts from different contexts, such as passages from de-classified US Army documents from the war in Iraq. Holzer’s works often speak of violence, oppression, sexuality, feminism, power, war and death. Her main concern is to enlighten, bringing to light something thought in silence and was meant to remain hidden. In For the City, Holzer claims “Many were scribbled down quickly. This human touch is what makes history real.”


Public Art Energizes Atlanta’s Creative Culture at Flux 2010

As a designer and an artist, I’m always trying to see work in and around Atlanta whenever possible that is inspirational and fun. Sometimes it can be difficult to see everything going on in town… there are so many events, shows, and exhibits that you really have to pick and choose what to check out. And of course, sometimes I miss things that I should probably go see… but not last night!

Over in the streets of the Castleberry Hill Art District, a one-night public art celebration ensued throughout the spaces of downtown Atlanta, presented by Flux Projects. The streets were immersed with art and people and the community was alive with passion! The event, called Flux 2010, included large and small-scale projections (like the escaped zebra), beautiful dance performance and music (I loved the white tutu’d dancers and the flutist with the stop frame animation backdrop). There were just so many wonderful pieces including more light installations, multi-media projects, and public interactions. There was even a room filled with fog that delighted the senses!

For a listing of the artists and projects presented at Flux, click here.

You can gauge a bit more about who Flux Projects is and what they are about by reading their mission statement below. Overall, fantastic night… Good art and great energy!

“Flux Projects supports artists in creating innovative temporary public art throughout Atlanta. The organization produces new platforms for artistic experimentation that engage a broad audience in their daily lives, beyond the walls of traditional arts venues. We challenge artists to make exceptional, surprising work that inspires Atlanta and fosters an awareness of the richness and diversity of the city’s creative culture.”