Saturday, June 4, 2022

Nathan Sawaya: LEGO Artist for the Earth

Nathan Sawaya's story fascinates me. Not many people go from lawyer to LEGO artist with a traveling art exhibit of his own, but Nathan did in 2007. I was in awe years ago when I saw his Art of the Brick exhibit (then in Philadelphia). It's amazing to see what he can do with buckets full of LEGOs. Sharing his story becomes a favorite for both my kindergarten students and me as I share this video and inspire them all to use the design process to become creators and LEGO innovators.

For the last year, Nathan has a new element to his Art of the Brick exhibit. Working with Australian-born photographer Dean West, they created the PERNiCiEM Collection. PERNiCiEM is Latin for extinction. This part of the Art of the Brick exhibit highlights endangered species with a mix of Nathan's LEGOs and Dean's photography. They feature fascinating facts about 18 animals in 19 exhibits. Included are where on the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species these animals are and why their numbers have diminished. (Spoiler alert--human threat to habitation or humans themselves are often the cause.)
The message in their collective art is that it is imperative to work to save our planet from climate change, deforestation, declining sea ice, polluted waters, and loss of species and biodiversity--for if we don't and these animals become extinct, only the plastic, LEGO-fied versions of these animals will be left. Reality will cease to be that, instead going more toward an artificial reality where we can only see these animals in their natural habitats through art, photography, or a digitized version of our world. 
The showcased animals in PERNiCiEM were created by Nathan, then they were taken to their natural oceanic, forest, grassland or arctic habitats and photographed by Dean.  The included animals:
  • African Elephant
  • Arctic fox
  • Beluga whale
  • Chilean flamingo 
  • Cheetah
  • Giraffe
  • Hawksbill turtle
  • Humpback whale
  • Malayan tiger
  • Military macaw
  • Northern white rhinoceros 
  • Orca
  • Polar bear
  • Reef shark
  • Sumatran orangutan
  • Vaquita
  • Western lowland gorilla
  • Whale shark
This is not the first time that Dean West & Nathan Sawaya have worked together. They are also featured in the "In Pieces" exhibits marrying Dean's photography with Nathan's LEGO creations in a series of several works of art.

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