This weekend I visited The Art of the Brick with my family. Don’t know what this is? Let me fill you in.
The Art of the Brick is a traveling exhibition that, at present, resides in Tampa, Florida. The exhibit, which has been deemed a “Must See Exhibition” by CNN, exclusively uses LEGO® bricks as the art medium.
Who is the mastermind behind this? It is former corporate lawyer, Nathan Sawaya. A lawyer who plays with LEGO® bricks had this genius idea, you ask? Yep. He did. Crazy, right? Why couldn’t one of us have glued some LEGO® together and called it art? Well, we probably could have, but it most definitely would not be as amazing as what he creates.
To my surprise, I was truly inspired while I was there. My surprise did not come from the fact that I had low expectations for the exhibit, or the fact that the art was better than I expected, but rather I was taken aback by how his commentary on the pieces resonated with me.
While the rest of my company was taking pictures of the art, I was taking pictures of his other possibly less-noticed art — his words. I guess as a writer (whoa, can I call myself that and have people really believe it?) I was drawn more to the conversation he was starting.
So, what was it about Sawaya’s words that impacted me so? I’ll share some of them with you.
One of Sawaya’s quotes at the exhibit talked about how he noticed a discrepancy between doing something he was less passionate about vs. something that really ignited him. He also shared how his deep desire for “overall happiness” transcended his fears.
So many of us are struggling to live the life we truly want — one that allows us to purposefully live while happily following our passions, however silly those passions may seem to others. But, at the same time, we also want to be successful enough to live comfortably and to ensure that we are able to support our family. Like Sawaya, I went to law school. Yet, I only made it through a semester as that was plenty long enough for me to realize that I just wasn’t going to find pleasure through arguing and defending the law.
Had I known what I should have done was to pick up some LEGO® bricks, glue them together, and call it art I would likely be well-off and traveling the globe just like Sawaya. But guess what? Playing with LEGO® bricks is not my passion; kids are — and because I left law school and realized that, I popped out three intelligent and beautiful ones. You know what I think Sawaya would say about that? I believe he would be fully encouraging of the fact that I have established what makes me happy, and have made the conscious decision to live out “my happy”.
What a great lesson for children to learn at a young age — to follow their heart, but to use their head to find a way to capitalize on their passion. For me, my heart drives me to seek constant improvement in my parenting, my marriage, and of myself. My head, thankfully, has helped me figure out a way to capitalize on my passion by sharing through writing my knowledge, thoughts, and skills with the goal of inspiring, empowering, or at least entertaining others. Mastering the ability of connecting heart and head, and getting them to work in conjunction, has ignited this spark inside of me which brings me daily joy, all while propelling me to be a better person and to hopefully help others do the same.
Another statement of Sawaya’s that I was particularly drawn too, was in reference to an untitled art piece he created of a person covering their eyes. Sawaya’s commentary on the piece was that when children don’t want to be seen, they simply hold their hands over their eyes. The innocence of a child’s mind enables them to hold the perspective that if they can’t see the world, then the world can’t see them. Sawaya made further reference to the fact that as adults we tend to use a version of this “invisible” method as well. How so very right he is.
There are so many times when we pull the metaphorical wool over our own eyes; we hide behind our work, inside of our home, or even from our families by hiding out in our head. Sometimes, we even simply hide from ourselves and our own thoughts by masking the full, vulnerable depth of our thinking.
Sawaya’s artwork successfully did it again, delivering another wonderful lesson for both adults and child alike: Just because you are hiding, doesn’t mean that you are not seen. I would go further to say that truly understanding this should hopefully provoke a sense of community for you, not anxiety. How unifying it is to recognize that someone is always seeing us, even when we are not seeing them, or ourselves. Someone is always on the lookout for us. Someone is always there to lend a helping hand or a listening hear. Thanks to Sawaya and his thought-provoking narratives on his pieces, there was no way for me to hide from my own thoughts of how his words were relating to my life, and the lives that so many of us live.
Another one of Sawaya’s pieces was titled “Green Torso”. His statement about this piece was that “sometimes life gets so busy and there is so much going on in your head that it would be nice to be able to lift it off, empty out all the clutter and replace ready to take on the day”. How on point is this! How many days of the week are we so wrapped up in our lives and the ever-present stressors that come and go into them? It’s like getting drowned by waves that we are unprepared to ride. And, like Sawaya suggests, how many of those same days do we want to rid our mind of racing to-do lists?
I swear, reading Sawaya’s words on the connections between his work and life made me feel as though he was in my head; truly understanding this life as most people are living it, and ultimately showing empathy and support for us, his viewers, through his art.
So, what is Sawaya’s perspective on art as a whole — well he’s quoted as saying that it “makes better humans,” “is necessary in understanding the world,” it “makes people happy” and is “not optional”.
What I pulled out of his quotes, and really from my visit as a whole to this exhibit, is that we are all artists, us and our children. And, whether we believe it or not doesn’t change the fact that we all most definitely are. The only thing that makes us different from Sawaya is his use of LEGO® bricks for a medium, and, well, I guess for some of us, his darn law degree too.
You see, each of us is the artist of our own life; taking our hopes, dreams, skills and thoughts, all unique to us, and translating those into what we do and how we live. Living our lives on our own terms is owning our unique creative self. I would say that there is nothing more “artistic” than focusing on our passions.
What were some of our family’s favorite pieces? My three-year old son loved the one where, in his own words, “the man was pulling his face off”. As expected, my six-year-old, compassionate, competitive dancer, loved “the peace sign” and “the heart”. The baby, well, she loved running around the whole darn place trying to touch everything she wasn’t supposed to. (Sorry, Mr. Sawaya.) For my husband, he loved it all, and I totally get why.
Mr. Sawaya — Let me just say that you have set the bar pretty darn high for what I expect from an art exhibit. Thank you for sharing your amazing pieces of work, but even more than that, I thank you for sharing such honest words on the joys and perils of life.
And, per your advice, I am going to forever remember that “it all starts with one brick” and keep stacking those bricks towards my dreams, and encouraging my children to do the same.
If you live in Florida or have a trip planned here soon, The Art of the Brick will be here until September 4th. If you are outside of Florida and want to see if the exhibit is coming to a location near you, check out the current schedule.
*** The Art of the Brick is brought to Tampa by the Vinik Family Foundation. The Vinik Family Foundation is “a private foundation created and managed by Jeff and Penny Vinik. Founded in 1997, VFF has donated over $60 million to non-profits working in the areas of education, human services, healthcare and the arts. VFF is especially dedicated to broadening the public’s understanding of art through inclusive, interactive exhibits and installations”. (Vinik Family Foundation)