Like many children, Nathan Sawaya played with LEGOs, and his parents even allowed his enormous LEGO city to rest behind the family’s couch.
When his parents refused to get him a dog, he took the city apart and built his own dog. That creation is one of the pieces in the exhibition The Art of the Brick at the Mansfield ART Center, along with a striking self portrait, also made from colorful LEGO bricks.
Sawaya’s childhood dreams were always fun and creative. He drew cartoons, wrote stories, perfected magic tricks and continued to play with LEGOs. He was unsure, however, if his artistic talent could support him, so he did what many struggling artists do: He went to law school.
After graduating from New York University, he worked as a lawyer during the day but continued to fulfill his creative side with LEGOs. Partners in his law firm were puzzled by the young attorney who enjoyed sitting on the floor, building with the colorful bricks.
In 2004, he quit the law firm and became a full-time LEGO artist.
Today, Sawaya’s LEGO works of art are seen around the world. He continues to create three-dimensional art and oversized portraits in his studios in New York and Los Angeles and accepts commissioned work from his many fans.
He sums up his life with the statement: “My worst day as an artist is still better than my best day as a lawyer.”
His latest form of street art is Hugman, a 15-inch tall LEGO figure with outstretched arms that hug sign posts, park benches and even bicycles. He has placed hundreds of the figures around the world, concentrating them in New York City.
Often, they last only about an hour before someone decides to take Hugman home.
Concurrently on display at the ART Center is Sawaya’s unique multi-media collaboration with award-winning Australian photographer Dean West, titled In Pieces. The two artists traveled and worked together to blend their work in a stunning collection of photos that are exhibited with corresponding three-dimensional LEGO brick sculptures, including a red dress that looks like pixels have broken off and are blowing in the wind.
Sawaya’s exhibit can be seen at the Mansfield ART Center from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays until Nov. 16, 2016. After viewing the exhibit, kids are inspired to build their own LEGO sculptures, and the center has provided an interactive room filled with the colorful bricks for them to use.
The Mansfield ART Center is located at 700 Marion Ave. For more information call 419-756-1700 or visit www.mansfieldartcenter.org.
For more information about Sawaya and his artwork, visit www.brickartist.com.