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Grand Strand lands doubly lucky Lego summer

BY STEVE PALISIN
spalisin@thesunnews.com

Anyone longing to take in Lego art exhibits on the Grand Strand can enjoy double dipping all summer.

Newly opened and going through Sept. 10, “The Art of the Brick,” with large-scale Lego sculptures by Nathan Sawaya of Los Angeles and New York, spans all 11 galleries inside the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum, 3100 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach. “Nature Connects: Legos Bricks Sculpture” outdoor exhibit, by Sean Kinney, another New Yorker and including a hummingbird and dragonfly, each exceeding 6 feet, continues through Sept. 5, at Brookgreen Gardens, on U.S. 17, between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach.

Pat Goodwin, the art museum’s executive director, said this marks only the third time that one exhibit has graced the whole museum, following two others – before the reception room’s conversion into an 11th gallery in 2009 – “Myrtle Beach Collects” in winter 2005, and “From Goodnight Moon to Art Dog: The World of Clement, Edith and Thacher Hurd” that summer.

“The Art of the Brick” on the lobby floor, through the doors, left of the front desk, starts with “Yellow,” a male figure getting something off his chest, with both hands: a bunch of toppled Lego bricks.

Liz Miller, curator of the art museum, said many of Sawaya’s sculptures “depict the human form in a variety of emotive forms.”

“As Sawaya took a big leap from his career in law to become a successful career as a full-time artist,” Miller said, “many of his three-dimensional figures are expressive of the idea of breaking out against all odds to pursue one’s dreams.”

Miller also said Sawaya is “hailed as the first artist to ever take Lego into the art world as a medium.”

A wall card notes that Sawaya, plots out each piece – which include his own self portrait, “Nathan Replica,” measuring 73 by 23 by 17 inches (in height, width and depth) – with preliminary sketches and use of graph paper.

Known for his “Hugman” Lego street art in big cities, with figures grasping such objects as sign poles and fence posts, Sawaya’s works on display here include “Green Hugman,” in coastal beach scene, with arms around a post with a lifeguard ring, with a keyhole urchin, or sand dollar, below his feet.

Take your picks of “Skulls,” each 16 by 14 by 22 inches in one color each: black, light gray, red. dark gray and white. On the opposite wall in that room, the 8-foot-tall red figure in “Pushing Against” – taller than the late Richard Kiel, better known as “Jaws” from two James Bond movies and Mr. Larson in “Happy Gilmore” – reaches with his hands on the ceiling.

Climb to the top level of the museum for “In Pieces,” in which Lego sculptures built by Sawaya are incorporated into photos by Dean West from Australia, and search for nuances in the scenes.

The “Tree” in the gallery boasts a white cockatoo perched in its branches in the corresponding photo.

Three “Cloud” sculptures fit right in with the “Hotel” scene by a mountain-view ranch inn with a classic, big Cadillac sedan parked in front, but check for the “Bucket” piece,” along the corridor of guest rooms, with a housekeeper holding a mop in the pail pictured.

Another photo, “Bus,” accounts for multiple pieces, “Dog” – maybe a golden Labrador – at the end of a leash held by a woman donning a yellow dress, and “Mannequin,” seen behind some blinds in a store window.

Look closely at Sawaya’s red “Umbrella” – down to the silver arm and dark handle, also built with Legos – and in the hands of a man portrayed.

A first glance at “Red Dress” – 54 by 34 by 44 inches – might not spur thoughts of a garment, but the pieces all come together in its matching photo, blowing on the wearer as snowflakes fall in front of a theater with “On the Run” on the marquee, beside an attendant in the box office.

Both Lego exhibits – at the museum and Brookgreen – truly complement each other, each with its own aura, experience, and perspective. Their scheduling meshed by sheer luck, too.

“It wasn’t planned,” said Helen Benso, Brookgreen’s vice president for marketing, “but when we became aware that we both were to host Lego exhibits, we were thrilled … . It gives the visitors and locals two exciting new exhibits to see, and Legos exhibits are very popular.”

Miller, the art museum’s curator, also attested to the “pure coincidence” in timing and remarked on Legos as the apparent “hot ticket in the exhibit world this summer.”

Also, a 14th work from “Nature Connects” is flying separately from the flock at Brookgreen Gardens – from the 12 scattered in the Native Wildlife Zoo, and the smallest piece, a bonzai tree, sits outside the gift shop. Look for a bald eagle Lego sculpture by Kenney. It’s perched in the baggage claim area at Myrtle Beach International Airport. Such a striking welcome to everyone arriving!

If you go – Experience art

Mostly free, unless noted otherwise:

▪ “The Art of the Brick,” with large-scale Lego sculptures by Nathan Sawaya of New York, through Sept. 10, spanning all 11 galleries at Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum, 3100 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. 843-238-2510 or www.myrtlebeachartmuseum.org, and www.brickartist.com. Also, “RoboArt” robotics camps for youth ages 10-14 (entering grades 5-8), with capacity for six each session: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. or 2-5 p.m. June 28-30, for $125 members, otherwise $150; call Arielle Fatuova or email afatuova@myrtlebeachartmuseum.org.

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THE FRANKLIN G. BURROUGHS-SIMEON B. CHAPIN ART MUSEUM IN MYRTLE BEACH

Myrtle Beach’s Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum strives to be one of the finest visual arts museums in the Carolinas. With 11 galleries that change throughout the year, Myrtle Beach’s only art museum offers exhibitions featuring paintings, textiles, sculpture, photography, video, ceramics, assemblage, collage and more. A visit to the Art Museum’s exhibitions can be enhanced by its lively programming, including artist receptions, tours, lectures, workshops and classes for both adults and children.