LEGO the Everyday and Celebrate Creative Construction with The Art of the Brick

Posted by Rachel S on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

If you’ve ever dreamed of quitting your day job to create art, lawyer-turned-artist Nathan Sawaya should serve as a source of inspiration to you – and that’s what he wants to be. Perhaps working in such a common medium – LEGO – helps keep Sawaya’s hubris at bay. He intentionally makes his work (and himself) accessible, showing up at every opening to mingle with the masses and encourage burgeoning artists of all ages to fill their world with art.

Once a successful New York corporate attorney who turned to LEGO to relieve the stress of long work weeks, Sawaya began sculpting with the Danish bricks in earnest a little over a decade ago and was eventually able to walk away from his day job to explore art full time. His oversized plastic sculptures, constructed largely of basic LEGO bricks and glue sell for five to six figures and enjoy worldwide popularity. As a noteworthy pop artist, Sawaya has gained attention by guesting on Mythbusters to address a LEGO-based myth and has been featured on Jeopardy as a category. If you don’t know his name and work – you’re missing out!

Sawaya counts Donald Trump, Tony Hawk, Pete Wentz and former President Bill Clinton as fans. Clinton is such a fan that he has a Sawaya sculpture on his desk and invited him to premiere his latest exhibit In Pieces – a collaboration with photographer Dean West – at the Clinton Presidential library. But his biggest exhibit by far is The Art of the Brick which is on simultaneous display at museums around the globe and will be seen this year in California, Israel, NYC, China, Singapore, Taiwan and a number of other cities.

If you struggle to get your kids to go peaceably to an art exhibit or find you’re less than engaged when staring at art that doesn’t appeal to your modern sensibilities, brick artist Sawaya may be more to your liking. Journalist Scott Jones has described him as, “…a surrealist mash-up of forms and artists. Imagine Frank Lloyd Wright crossed with Ray Harryhausen, or Auguste Rodin crossed with Shigeru Miyamoto, and you start to get a sense of where Sawaya is coming from.”

What’s incredibly appealing about Sawaya’s work is that he’s not only making original art that’s thought-provoking in size, scope and intensity but is also reimagining classic works of art, sculpture and archaeology in brick that will appeal to children of all ages. His blocky versions of Mona Lisa, The Scream, Starry Night, Whistler’s Mother and Girl With a Pearl Earring should inspire children and adults alike to explore the originals, if only for comparison’s sake.

Sawaya’s brick-based reworks of famous sculptures and his 20 foot long T-Rex may similarly get kids (and adults with idle hands) inspired enough to create some art of their own. In a recent interview with Bloomberg Law, the brick artist said, “People relate to a LEGO sculpture differently than say they do to a marble sculpture. People have LEGO at home. They can go home after seeing one of my sculptures and get inspired to try it for themselves.”

While it’s doubtful that most of us could make those multi-colored plastic bricks conform to the level of artistic sensibility Sawaya does, it’s a medium that many will enjoy experimenting with and would be comfortable playing with more so than breaking out canvas and oils. The appeal of Sawaya’s work, for me, lies in making much of the everyday and encouraging others to explore their artistic sensibilities. (Plus LEGO is awesome!)

Art of the Brick is currently on display at Discovery Times Square Museum in NYC, Chia Tai Hall in Shanghai and Alamance County Arts in Alamance, North Carolina. To see if there’s a future show near you – or within hailing distance, as this exhibit is worth a drive – click here.


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One response to “LEGO the Everyday and Celebrate Creative Construction with The Art of the Brick”

  1. Thomas Fleetwood-Law says:

    I am deeply moved by Nathan’s art and it has inspired me to do persevere more in life

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