Dumbarton Oaks’ ‘Brier Patch’ Explores Education, Nature, Equality

Dumbarton Oaks is hosting an art installation by artist Hugh Hayden now through May 2023. Don’t miss the exhibit, titled “Brier Patch,” by artist Hugh Hayden.

Hayden, 40, was born in Dallas and now lives and works in New York City. He has an MFA from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s of Architecture from Cornell University. His solo exhibits include Princeton University Art Museum in 2020 and White Columns in New York in 2018.

Growing up, Hayden was a gardener, nursing a passion for the pastime at his family’s home. His work arises from a deep connection to nature and organic materials.

“Brier Patch” features 100 wooden elementary school-like desks in various groups throughout the garden. Seventy-five of them include beautiful explosions of tree branches, winding together with complex and shifting meanings. The exhibit is perfect for Dumbarton Oaks, even in the wintertime. The branches are mysterious and curvy, calling out to the grand trees. The proportions of the exhibit (height and width) are suited to the spaces where they’re installed.

A scene from the “Brier Patch” exhibit at Dumbarton Oaks, on display through May 2023. Photo by Kevin McDonald.

In the amphitheater, chairs are included without branches. The configuration is reminiscent of a lecture hall and is geometrically pleasing and exaggerates the sense of distance in an interesting way — five rows of five chairs on the first terrace, five rows of four on the second and eight rows of three on the third.

John Beardsley, consulting curator for Dumbarton Oaks, shared his thoughts on the  “Brier Patch” messages about the challenges and opportunities of education and how they take on a particular relevance in the context of an academic institution like Dumbarton Oaks.

“The sculpture’s evocation of trickster tales rooted in African and Native American cultures might seem to challenge the more elitist narratives associated with the history of the tradition, especially Mediterranean cultural traditions,” he said. “At the very least, the piece argues for a more inclusive conception of the humanities, moreover, the fact that the chairs face away from the house suggests a turning away from what the institution represents.”

Hayden says  “Brier Patch” in this setting is as much about learning from the institution as it is reflecting upon its past. Hayden was inspired by the institution’s emphasis on learning from nature.

We can’t wait to see the exhibit in bloom this spring! More information on “Brier Patch” can be found here.

Speaking of spring, we’re looking forward to our February 8 spring arts preview issue. Market your exhibit or show today by emailing advertising@georgetowner.com.

Learn more about artist Hugh Hayden here:







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