LEGO artist brings life-size sculptures to Park City

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PARK CITY — When Nathan Sawaya was 10 years old, he asked his parents for a dog.

"They said, 'No,' so I built a life-size dog out of LEGOs," said Sawaya.

Though he's never gotten over his love for LEGO, Sawaya found a way use the colorful plastic blocks to make a living as an artist.

"Using LEGOs as an art medium is great on so many different levels," Sawaya said. "I love how the work comes together out of these little rectangles, but I also like how people react to the artwork."

Sawaya's "The Art of the Brick" exhibit opens to the public Saturday at the Kimball Art Museum in Park City.

"People come in expecting to see these little cars and trucks and they see these massive art sculptures of human forms," Sawaya said. "I think they can really connect with that kind of art because it's out of a child's toy."

While his 3-D artwork may be vibrant and fun to look at, the work that goes into creating it isn't child's play.

"There are many challenges," said Sawaya, who left his job as a lawyer five years ago to pursue his passion for art. "There are some engineering challenges and I have to glue each individual LEGO brick together as I'm working."

I used to have galleries that laughed at me. Now those same galleries are knocking on my door saying, 'Hey, we'd like to show your work.' So it's come full circle.

–Nathan Sawaya, Lego artist

Sawaya's LEGO collection contains 2.5 million blocks. And despite the mass quantity he uses in his sculptures, he doesn't get a discount from the company.

"I buy my bricks just like everyone else," he said.

Creating a human sculpture can take three weeks and require 15,000 to 25,000 bricks. One of Sawaya's larger pieces — a 15-foot-tall, 53-foot-long advertising billboard — took more than 500,000 bricks to construct.

"It can be a long process," Sawaya said. "You need patience for this job."

Sawaya, who will be signing copies of his new book Saturday from noon to 1 p.m., is the first to admit that his art wasn't taken seriously at first, but things are different now.

"I used to have galleries that laughed at me," he said. "Now those same galleries are knocking on my door saying, 'Hey, we'd like to show your work.' So it's come full circle."

Visitors to the Kimball should expect to see what Sawaya called a "mish mash" of his work.

"There's really something for everyone," he said. "We have some large scale pieces, some human forms, some pieces that have some real emotion, but also some whimsical pieces — things that, you know, a child could really connect with immediately."


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