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The Art of The Brick exhibit intrigues students

Chelsea Phillips

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The Oshkosh Public Museum welcomed Nathan Sawaya’s The Art of the Brick on Feb. 28, and it will remain open to the public until June 14, 2015.

The Art of the Brick is the first exhibition that focuses on the use of Lego bricks as a medium.

The exhibit has brought record-shattering crowds since its debut in April 2007.

According to the Oshkosh Public Museum, Sawaya was the first contemporary artist to use Lego as a medium in the art world. He has won many awards and honors for his artwork.

Sawaya said he chose to use this medium because it is different and he wanted to see the reaction people have after seeing what can be done with Lego.

“I use this medium because I enjoy seeing people’s reactions to artwork created from something with which they are familiar with,” Sawaya said. “Everyone can relate to this toy that many children have at home. I want to elevate this plaything to a place it has never been.”

Inspiration can come from anywhere and Sawaya said he is always writing down ideas for his next sculpture.

“I carry a little sketch book with me wherever I go,” Sawaya said. “I’m always jotting down ideas. Many of my works center on the phenomena of how everyday life, people and raw emotion are intertwined. I am inspired by my own experiences, the journeys I take and the people I meet.”

Sawaya’s artwork is primarily 3-D sculptures with some oversized portraits. He has done oversized portraits of Andy Warhol and Martin Luther King, Jr.

His 3-D sculptures replicate the human body in various states of emotion. His center piece, and his most famous piece of artwork, is entitled “Yellow.”

“Yellow” is a Lego torso of a man ripping open his chest with yellow bricks falling out of the open chest cavity.

Sawaya said his sculptures somewhat mimic how he is feeling with his life.

“Currently my favorite subject is the human form,” Sawaya said. “A lot of my work suggests transition. It represents the metamorphosis I am experiencing in my own life. My pieces grow out of my fears and accomplishments, as a lawyer an as and artist, as a boy and as a man.”

The museum has little space for exhibitions, which are usually large. The curator, Anna Cannizzo, said she wanted something that was family-friendly and small enough to fit through the doors.

“Most exhibitions are rented from other museums,” Karla Szekeres, marketing and membership coordinator, said. “Cannizzo found Nathan through Google and had to go to his website to rent his exhibition. Our museum is small so it is difficult to get certain exhibitions to fit through the door and to also fit in our showroom.”

Andrew Kopecky, a UWO student, said the museum did a great job in appealing to a wide range of people, especially kids.

“I feel that when you look at the characterization of this museum you get more than just a history museum,” Kopecky said. “Bringing in this exhibition, they opened up a younger age bracket which made it more kid-friendly.”

The Art of the Brick is a different type of exhibition than what the museum has year round. Sawaya’s works are large-scale sculptures and portraits using only Lego bricks.
According to Cannizzo, when the OPM brought in Sawaya’s exhibition, it brought in a younger crowd. There were a lot of parents and grandparents bringing in their children and grandchildren to see the Lego sculptures.

Kopecky said he enjoyed the exhibition as a whole but one piece stood out to him.

“My favorite piece was the Reflection,” Kopecky said. “It’s a sculpture of a boy leaning over a puddle and looking at his reflection. There is no actual face on the boy, just what is in the reflection. I was amazed at all the extra features that [Sawaya] put into the boy’s face and how it interacted that with him kneeling over the puddle.”

Sawaya said he leaves his artwork in the hands of critics; they choose where his work stands within the art world.

“I just have fun. It’s art made out of a toy,” Sawaya said. “Hopefully is inspires kids, and maybe grown-ups too, to go home and make art themselves.”

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
The Art of The Brick exhibit intrigues students