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We Love Hillsboro: Curious sculptures draw people to Orenco Woods Nature Park

The sculptures, made out of woven sticks, went up in Orenco Woods Nature Park a couple of years ago.

HILLSBORO, Ore. — A twisted, tangled piece of art in Hillsboro captivates a lot of people who walk by.

The sculptures, made out of woven sticks, went up in Orenco Woods Nature Park a couple of years ago and they already have a lot of fans.

If you search for it on Instagram, you'll see picture after picture of people posing with the sculptures.

The park itself seems like an average park, with a playground, lots of nature to look at, and tons of open space. Upon entering the park, you wouldn’t immediately know the sculptures are there. But follow the path and soon you'll run into the sculptures, named “Head over Heels.”

“They look like tree faces with little hats and they're made of sticks,” said Celine, one very observational 7-year-old.

She, her little brother Keanu, and their family are visiting from Switzerland. It seemed the whole family, adults and kids alike, enjoyed the piece of art.

“Playing hide and seek is so cool because you can hide in the faces or you can hide behind the trees,” Celine explained.

“How you make these sticks go together you never know.”

One man knows. Patrick Dougherty is the man who created it.

“I've learned a bit about what birds and beavers know,” said Dougherty over the phone. He lives in North Carolina.

Over the years he has mastered the art of weaving sticks.

“Sticks have an infuriating tendency to tangle,” he said. But he uses that tendency to his advantage, creating hundreds of similar pieces around the U.S. and the world. He and his son work together. They’ve created more than 300 sculptures in places like Phoenix, Montreal, Canada, to even places like Scotland and Denmark.

But when it comes to his project in Hillsboro, he's got fond memories.

“In the case of Orenco Woods, we had this beautiful set of trees and decided we'd try to festoon those trees with faces that looked out both side of the grove of trees,” Dougherty said.

“You'd think that with almost a scream look, you might get a foreboding or something but no, they're very comforting to me. I like them,” said Dianne Seymour. She doesn’t live in Hillsboro, but her family members do. So when she visits, she tries to make it to the Orenco Woods Nature Park.

“It’s one of my favorite parks in the whole metro area,” she said.

Dougherty said the stickwork faces, with their exaggerated expressions, were inspired by Native American tribal masks from the Pacific Northwest.

While his sculptures undoubtedly draw attention from people passing by, he said the trees they surround are beautiful too, with their uneven and craggy bark.

“You tend to go in between the sculptures and you're just right face on with these big trees and you start to see their majesty.”

The majesty of the entire structure is something even kids can appreciate.

“It's so beautiful,” said Celine.

There are a couple other similar art pieces in the region. One is at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.

Another one is located on the Oregon State University Campus in Corvallis.

Dougherty said he originally thought he was going to be a doctor, like his dad. But the call of the wild was too great.

He said he spends three weeks on each art installation.

To see more of Patrick Dougherty’s artwork, visit his website.

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