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SDCC 2015: Nathan Sawaya and 'The Art of the Brick'

Contemporary art has expanded to several non-traditional mediums, including LEGO bricks. Nathan Sawaya has been creating exhibitions solely using LEGO bricks since 2007. His show, "The Art of the Brick," has toured internationally and at SDCC, he was not only represented in the Wednesday night preview of "A LEGO Brickumentary," he was also part of the DC Comics presentation because in November, he'll be premiering a new global art exhibition: "The Art of the Brick: DC Comics."

The exhibition begins on November 21st, 2015 in Sydney, Australia, and while Sawaya assured me that it will eventually come to North America, he couldn't tell me when and where in a telephone interview during SDCC.

This wasn't Sawaya's first San Diego Comic-Con. He said it was his seventh and he was having lots of fun, particularly since the day before (Thursday), DC Entertainment's co-publisher Jim Lee revealed the newest concept for the Batmobile that will be created entirely out of LEGO by Sawaya. It will be one of the exhibition's focal points.

Like many of us, Sawaya played with LEGOs as a child. He had been creating sculptures using other material and one day, he started experimenting with LEGOs. When he started playing with LEGOs, it was "just nostalgic," but he soon found it was "a great way to express what I was truly feeling." He also realized that LEGOs made his art very accessible to both kids and adults. While the public embraced his art, art galleries were a bit more skeptical in the beginning, but now, Sawaya has no problems with galleries accepting his works of LEGO art.

When asked what advice he has for budding LEGO artists, he said he has no specific book or software program to recommend. Instead, he suggested a hands-on approach. "I tell them to get out some bricks and start, but don't limit yourself to LEGO." Sawaya explained. "You can feed off of other artists like those who use toothpicks, plastic cups or other household items." From there to LEGO is not a big stretch, but he also explained, "You should experience different types of material and see what fits you."

Of the documentary, "A LEGO Brickumentary," Sawaya said he felt the directors did "an amazing job of covering the breadth of the LEGO world." The documentary does note and show that Sawaya uses glue, something that some Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL) might consider an "illegal." Yet Sawaya explained glue usage is partially a matter of practicality: When Sawaya ships works, they need to stay together so the people at the end destination don't have to play puzzle solvers. Yet he also said, "I believe there are no rules to art."

Sawaya's non-DC Comics iteration of "The Art of the Brick" is currently at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. His largest LEGO sculpture to date is a 20-foot-long Tyrannosaurus Rex made of over 80,000 LEGO bricks. Sawaya's sculptures range from people, to famous masterpieces (e.g. Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa") to abstract ideas such as emotions.

For more information about Nathan Sawaya's "The Art of the Brick" exhibitions, visit his website. "The Art of the Brick: DC Comics" begins in Australia at the Powerhouse Museum of Art on November 21st, 2015 and runs until May 1st, 2016.

"A LEGO Brickumentary" opens on July 31st, 2015 in the U.S.

Jana Monji

Jana Monji, made in San Diego, California, lost in Japan several times, has written about theater and movies for the LA Weekly, LA Times, and currently, and the Pasadena Weekly. Her short fiction has been published in the Asian American Literary Review.

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