L’eggo my LEGOs

I wish I could tell you what prompted my fascination with LEGOs. It would make much more sense if I could point to a childhood where I used the colorful blocks to build all sorts of wonderful creations that came straight from my imagination. The fact is, though I did have LEGOs growing up, I don’t really remember playing with them all that much. When I did use them, I seem to remember simply building tall towers of them or a wall of interesting color patterns. Nothing all that exciting. In fact, from my early play with LEGOs it is not at all surprising that I never went into a career in architecture. I saw LEGOs as blocks to be fit together in an orderly fashion, not tools for exploration. As I grew older and started babysitting, I would often play with LEGOs with my charges; I still was fairly methodical in what I would build, but I found that putting LEGOs together to create anything – even a boring tower – was incredibly relaxing.

Perhaps it is because I never saw the limitless potential in LEGOs that I’m so drawn to people who see more in the toys than just colorful plastic. I am constantly blown away by how creative people are with LEGOs and have come to appreciate how versatile the toys can be. People are really doing some impressive things out there. Much like interest in golf and stand-up comedy, I am impressed with people who excel at things that I struggle with. These LEGO creations are art; they use these ordinary blocks to create something spectacular and interesting. They see the potential that I can’t and that’s something I’m a little jealous of.  I think my appreciation of LEGO artist was solidified when I saw this LEGO Yankee Stadium:

I would never in a million years be able to do that without a kit (seriously MLB and LEGO – work in it). Creating something like that is just beyond my capabilities, which just makes it all the more spectacular in my mind.

Last weekend, I decided to take a day trip to NYC. I had a few things on my agenda – like getting some banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery – but one of my main goals as to check out “The Art of the Brick” exhibit at Discovery Times Square, which featured works by LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya. As much as I am loathe to go to Times Square to dodge tourists and creepy costumed characters (many of whom may have been extras in Miley’s VMA performance), I was willing to suck it up to see what wondrous LEGO creations Sawaya had made.

I was vaguely familiar with Sawaya from his appearance on The Colbert Report back in 2007, when he made a pretty impressive likeness of Stephen:

He has also made a more recent appearance on Conan and created an equally impressive likeliness of everyone’s favorite red-headed superhero (and Conan’s alter ego), The Flaming C:

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I went to the exhibit; I wondered if there was a theme for his creations or how big the display would be. Another concern was that this would be aimed mostly at little kids and that I would look out of place wandering around on my own. Between this and the Museum of Play trip, I was beginning to worry that I was regressing.

I needn’t have worried; The Art of the Brick really was pretty impressive. I was far from the only adult there and to see what Sawaya created was simple awe-inspiring. I probably could have wandered around the exhibit all day – there were just so many cool things to look at.

The exhibition was broken into several different sections that each had a unifying theme. The first section featured LEGO recreations of famous works of art. This immediately spoke to me, since am a big fan of classical art; in fact, back in college the art history department tried to poach me to become one of their majors. I can only imagine the look on my father’s face if I came home and told him that instead of possibly going to law school that I’d decided to pursue the lucrative career of looking at old paintings. While I am certainly no art scholar, I have spent more than my fair share of time strolling through art museums. So it was a real kick for me to see some of my favorite works of art re-imagined using LEGOS. These were some of my favorites:

Whistler's Mother

Whistler’s Mother

Starry Night

Starry Night

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

American Gothic

American Gothic

David

David

Moai (Easter Island Heads)

Moai (Easter Island Heads)

Little Dancer of Fourteen Years

Little Dancer of Fourteen Years

The Girls with the Pearl Earring

The Girl with the Pearl Earring

The next section of the exhibit featured original creations, which were also very cool. It’s one thing to be able to replicate something that exists, but it takes a whole different kind of creativity to create something out of your imagination.

Swimmer

Swimmer

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The final segment featured recreations of actual objects. This dinosaur was amazing and took up and entire room:

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I dug this Statute of Liberty in front of the Manhattan skyline

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These portraits of Andy Warhol and Alfred Hitchcock were very cool:

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But of course, my favorite of them all was the baseball player:

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I really had a great time strolling through this exhibit and I couldn’t help but notice that everyone else who was wandering around had big smiles on their faces as the pursued the sculptures. Something about LEGOs just speaks to the child in all of us. I was almost tempted to buy the overpriced LEGO sets in the giftshop and start working on my own creations, but the idea of lugging that around NYC all day wasn’t appealing (plus I know that you can get those sets a lot cheaper on amazon.com – I’ve had my eye on the White House set for a while, but just haven’t pulled the trigger). Kids will definitely love this display, but I think most adults will be very impressed as well. If you happen to be in NYC, I recommend popping in to Discovery Times Square to marvel at what can be created with something as simple as a LEGO block. I don’t think you can leave The Art of the Block without being a little impressed and amazed.

The Art of the Block exhibit at Discovery Times Square runs through January 2014. You can find additional information about Nathan Sawaya on his website.

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