Lego Exhibit Turns Childhood Toys Into Art

I am pretty sure my dad was having more fun than my mom.

I am pretty sure my dad was having more fun than my mom.

When I was five years old, snooping around my grandma’s house as she babysat me, I discovered a large bucket in one of the upstairs closets. Although it was almost larger than me, and definitely weighed more, I mustered all of my strength to drag it out. As I pulled off the lid I knocked the bucket over, and out spilled the countless little multicolored bricks. This bucket held all of the Legos that my dad and his 13 younger siblings had played with growing up, and for me it contained a world of creativity that would from then on keep me and my cousins occupied for hours on end.

While Legos had been considered a children’s toy, they are now an art medium. Sean Kenney, an artist and children’s author based in New York, uses Legos to create impressive sculptures and portraits. He has been creating sculptures for over 10 years. His Lego creations include everything from functional lamps to portraits to life-size Star Wars characters. Sean has also created exhibits that tour the United States. One such exhibit is Nature Connects. Nature Connects is a collection of nature-inspired pieces, built using more than 1.6 million Lego bricks.

The Nature Connects exhibit has come to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane, WA. It is showing through February 7. I was able to go visit the exhibit and was thoroughly impressed will the sheer size and detail of the sculptures. I considered myself pretty darn good when it came to building things out of Legos, but my Millennium Falcon and cat had nothing on these creations.

The wonder began when I walked into the museum. Inside the entrance hung a giant bee above a life-size lawn mower, made entirely out of little Lego bricks. I had seen some pictures of the sculptures in this exhibit but I had entirely estimated the size of them wrong. They were much larger than I had imagined. Often times, the larger something is the harder it is to give it detail, but these Lego creations were in no way lacking in detail. Matthew Troxel, a student visiting the exhibit said, “I’m most impressed with the sheer number of bricks used to make each sculpture, and they’re not special bricks, but regular ones, just like what I use.”

The sculptures were of animals and plants. Some were life-size and some where larger. There was a sculpture of a bison and calf that weighed 1,238 pounds, almost as much as a real bison. A life-size sculpture of goldfinches even had birdseed made out of Legos. A giant hummingbird floated near a large flower. It was almost as if I was in an alternate universe because the sculptures were so unreal, since they were not accurately sized and they were made from toy bricks, yet they were so detailed they could have been real.

Next to the professional sculptures were Lego creations made by local children. These were almost as impressive as the large works. From Kindergarten all the way through seniors in high school, these young artists were so creative. Renee Himelspach, a former nanny and teacher said that, while the exhibits built by the New York artist where impressive, her favorite part of the exhibit was the children’s sculptures: “What I was happy to see was what the children had built. From kindergarten on up, the imagination and creativity of the students was inspiring.”

Nature Connects is an impressive homage to both the beauty of nature, but also the creativity of the human mind. I would encourage a visit to Nature Connects. You can see how Legos can inspire creativity in the young and old. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m currently building a sculpture of my cat and must get back to it while my creative juices are still flowing.

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