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Arts: Building Art Out of Legos

December 28, 2015

Opening Oct. 23, 2015 at Cincinnati Museum Center, “The Art of the Brick” presents LEGO® bricks in a whole new light, demonstrating the potential of creativity and the power of imagination.

YouTube video Cincinnati Museum Center

YouTube video VOA Learning English

Legos are not just for children. They can become works of art in the hands of adults like Nathan Sawaya.

NATHAN SAWAYA: I dont notice the time passing. I just, this is what I do and I enjoy it. So I can just work for hours without being interrupted.

Legos are made of plastic. Each piece is called a brick. Bricks come in different colors and sizes.

NATHAN SAWAYA:I think the most important thing is having a vision in my head before I start putting down that first brick. And then it is just a matter of putting the bricks together to make it look like the vision I have.

Sawaya is one of a very few full-time Lego artists in the United States. He creates works of art from these simple building blocks.

NATHAN SAWAYA: “Although I work probably every weekend and I work most nights, you know, Im doing what I love so it doesnt feel like work.”

For several years, Sawaya worked as a lawyer. That left him little time for building Legos. But he found enough time to set up a personal website.

NATHAN SAWAYA: “There was a day when my website, brickartist.com, it crashed because it had too many hits. So I realized, all right, it is time to make a change because there was a viable market out there to be an artist.”

Sawaya says he has no regrets about his new career.

NATHAN SAWAYA: “The worst day as an artist is still better than the best day as a lawyer. So I dont regret my decision.”

His art works have found their way into American museums. This show was held at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut.

NATHAN SAWAYA:When I do the two-dimensional portraits, it is a lot like painting because Im using the Lego bricks as the paint essentially.

Sawaya uses Legos like a traditional artist uses bronze, clay or paint.

BOY: “The pencil one.”

GRANDMOTHER: “Oh, the pencil one! It looks like a man carrying a very big pencil. See that? Would you like to make something like this?”

BOY: “Yes, but look at that!”

GRANDMOTHER: “I know, thats really neat.”

Adults see Lego art differently than children.

WILMA NACINOVICH: “The artist has said that he only used rectangle pieces. And yet he manages to get this roundness.”

The head of the Flinn Gallery, Vivian Chen, has high praise for Sawayas creations.

VIVIAN CHEN:”It is a person swimming in deep water. The legs are kicking and the arms are doing the freestyle motion. But what drew people to this is that you could feel the flow of the water. You could feel the action of the arms.”

Some of his larger pieces sell for tens of thousands of dollars. But he will not sell this one — an artist struggling to escape from the body of a lawyer.

NATHAN SAWAYA: “It is still very personal. I put it out there as part of the museum exhibit so it is touring and people can go and enjoy it. But Im not ready to have it going to someones house, you know, someones office and never see it again.”

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