The Art of the Brick Exhibit at Portland’s OMSI

Geek Culture

Nathan Sawaya's Lego masksNathan Sawaya's Lego masks

Nathan Sawaya's Lego masks at OMSI. Photo: Jonathan Liu

I’ve seen photos of Nathan Sawaya’s Lego sculptures in the past, but up until now I’ve never had the opportunity to see them in person. This weekend The Art of the Brick, Sawaya’s touring show, is opening at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, Oregon. I had the chance to get a preview of the show on Friday’s media day. There were other reporters there as well, getting some footage and photographs and interviewing the three local Lego artists also featured in the exhibit. (Sawaya himself was not present.) I spent some time just walking around and admiring the sculptures — believe me, as amazing as these look in photographs, they’re even more impressive up close. The three masks you see above, for instance, are somewhere around five or six feet tall.

As with other appearances of The Art of the Brick, the show features some work by local artists as well. Since much has been written about Sawaya already, I’ll tell you a little bit about some of the local folks.

Jeff Sanders and his Brick Bending pieces.Jeff Sanders and his Brick Bending pieces.

Jeff Sanders and his Brick Bending pieces. Photo: Jonathan Liu

First up is Jeff Sanders, who you may recognize. Sanders is the guy behind Brick Bending, making intricate curved shapes out of Lego. His Kickstarter campaign last year raised a little over $5,000 and he’s actually been expanding — literally — into the third dimension (as you can see from the sphere in the photo). Sanders has a background in mathematics, and it’s evident in his Lego constructions, which involve a lot of repeated iterations and patterns.

Dennis Newell with Star Wars Lego sets.Dennis Newell with Star Wars Lego sets.

Dennis Newell shows off his Star Wars Lego sets. Photo: Jonathan Liu

Dennis Newell’s twin passions should be familiar to any of our readers: Lego and Star Wars. He’s been putting Lego displays in the window of Sunlan Lighting for some time, and loves when people stop to enjoy the scene. Some of his models are built from Star Wars sets, but he also makes some custom ships as well, and he has a particular fondness for the Star Wars minifigs. He feels that people really connect with scenes involving the characters, so he’s peppered his display at OMSI with a bunch of them.

Steve Barile and his model MAX. Photo: Jonathan LiuSteve Barile and his model MAX. Photo: Jonathan Liu

Steve Barile and his model MAX. Photo: Jonathan Liu

Although Steve Barile is a dad, he swears he didn’t get back into Lego because of his kids. He was a model train enthusiast, and came across Lego train sets about 15 years ago. Since then he has co-founded the Pacific Northwest Lego Train Club and has helped coordinate Brickfest conventions in Portland. He specializes in Lego trains and mosaics, and OMSI has a large display of his interpretation of Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace at Night.

The exhibit also includes interactive portions, of course. Museum visitors will be able to construct things of their own, as well as learn a little more about Mindstorms, help build a small mosaic, and more. For more, be sure to check out my small photo gallery on the GeekDad community site, as well as a little video clip of Sawaya’s “Crowd” sculpture. You can also get more information at OMSI’s website and Nathan Sawaya’s website. The exhibit runs until April 29, 2012.

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