“Green,” by Nathan SawayaHere’s a double-entendre for you — haven’t we all felt like this guy at some point? As if we wanted to just rip our heads right off?

And the other side of the heads up: if you’d like to see some amazing art — for free — check out “The Art of the Brick” at the Captain White House in Graham, NC. Sponsored by the Alamance County Arts Council, the exhibit will be on display through the month of October.

“Shocking Self Portrait,” by Nathan SawayaWorks by the New York-based artist, Nathan Sawaya, have been exhibited all over the world, and often for a hefty entrance fee, so it’s a real treat to see his work for free. Sawaya was a Lego-fanatic as a boy: when his parents wouldn’t let him have a dog, he built one from Legos. Sawaya moved into adult life as a lawyer for several years before ditching his well-paying corporate job for a poorly compensated stint as a Lego “Master Builder.”

It wasn’t long before Sawaya chafed at the job’s limitations and ventured out as an independent “brick artist.” The Lego company was not amused, apparently. Despite all the positive publicity he brings and the hundreds of thousands of Lego bricks he uses each year, Sawaya says he can’t get a discount.

The exhibit in Graham, located in an old-but-nicely-restored house used as an art center and in the nearby Children’s Museum, suffers a bit from cramped quarters, sunny windows, and the lack of controlled lighting the art would enjoy in a more traditional museum, but it’s still quite impressive.

“Think,” by Nathan SawayaSawaya works mostly with the human form, finding a variety of ways to express both the angst and the joys of human life. One of my favorites, called “Think,” features a head with people (symbolic of ideas?) climbing out of it. As displayed, the inside of the head was not visible, but with the aid of a smartphone photo from above, one can see the ideas forming from an assorted pile of bricks inside. One of the emerging thoughts holds a key.

“Peace By Pieces,” by Nathan SawayaI particularly liked one piece that did not portray humans, but challenges them. “Piece by Pieces” is a reminder (to me, at least), that building peace requires cooperation from people of every nation, every race, every ethnic group, every religion, every ideology. In the entire scuplture, Sawaya says, there are only three places that bricks of the same color touch each other. I’ll take his word for it.

The weekend of September 7-8 also featured a “Brick Fan Fest” at which local Lego artists displayed a variety works, including (among other things) large-scale Star Wars spaceships, a diorama featuring superheroes, a huge replica of the NC State Capitol building, and even a four panel portrait of the characters from Duck Dynasty, which seemed a bit out of place but was convincing nonetheless. 

If you live within driving distance of Graham, NC (just east of Burlington), the exhibit is well worth the trip. If you can’t get to Graham, consider visiting an art museum in your own neck of the woods: good art provokes deep thought, and thinking is good for you — unless you’re three of those Duck boys trying to get a beehive from a tree with shop vac — some thoughts are better left unthunk.

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