By Dasha Morgan
Asheville – A larger than life series of unique nature sculptures, built out of Lego® brick blocks, has now opened at the North Carolina Arboretum. “The Nature Connects” exhibit includes 16 awesome sculptures, featuring a colorful five-foot-tall peacock, a giant dragonfly, a bonsai tree, and a massive monarch butterfly. The pieces have a spirit, a spark, a sense of magic, even possibly a story. The sculptures in this exhibition were designed and crafted with care and painstaking detail over the course of many years by Sean Kenney and his team of Brooklyn-based artists.
Originally set to open in May, this exhibit was delayed due to the current COVID-19 crisis. The show is being allowed to go on with certain restrictions, as the sculptures are scattered throughout the Arboretum campus. The exhibit will be there until November 1. The Arboretum is open 8 am – 7 pm daily (incoming gates close at 6 pm). The Baker Exhibit Center is open and includes restroom access, exhibit hall and gift shop (exhibit greenhouse is closed). The Bonsai Exhibition Garden is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm. Face coverings are required for guests 11 years and older. Daytime admission is free; however, a standard $16 parking fee applies to non-Arboretum members.
These award-winning exhibits by Kenney have been touring the world for nearly a decade—in Asia, Europe, and North America. Besides wonderful natural world scenes with bugs, wild animals, and flowers, this gifted artist also creates playful cartoons, personal portraits, and amusing street scenes in LEGO®. His portraits are hand-drawn (not computer-generated), fully glued, and mounted to a sturdy wooden backing for rigidity and easy wall-hanging. By going online, one can commission a LEGO portrait of someone. In addition, Kenney has written numerous books for children and been featured on many television shows.
Over the years Kenney has developed many techniques to achieve the desired result.
Apparently a computer is used minimally. He gathers as many photographs or drawings of the subject as possible and then uses graph paper to plan out the basic shape and size. After that, he will start building a prototype, using the graphed plans as a guide. Once he has a prototype that he likes, he will rebuild it, glue it and use the prototype as a template. Each brick is individually glued, and some larger sculptures have custom-built interior metal frameworks. It can take anywhere from a few days to weeks or even months to complete these incredible sculptures.
“Due to its size, uniqueness and magnitude, Nature Connects is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that truly appeals to all ages, groups and interests,” said George Briggs, executive director of The North Carolina Arboretum. “Artist Sean Kenney does a terrific job of bringing together art and nature using an iconic toy, the LEGO Brick, to help connect guests with the natural world. We look forward to hosting this new edition of the exhibit at the Arboretum and are excited about the many new sculptures added to the collection.”
This exhibit draws inspiration from the living world and combines play with science to create an innovative intersection of education, entertainment and the environment.
ArborEvenings features Nature Connects
As dusk settles, Nature Connects will be brought to light as part of the Arboretum’s ArborEvenings summer after-hours series. This year, the Arboretum will be extending the dates and times of ArborEvenings. The events will be held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 8 am to 11 pm. Some exclusion dates apply, please check the website for up to date details. Concerts will be on Thursday, July 23 – Laura Thurston (folk), Friday, July 24 – Patrick Lopez (jazz/latin/pop) and Saturday, July 25 – David Stevenson (classic guitar). Visitors can sip and stroll through The NC Arboretum’s beautiful gardens and discover the illuminated LEGO brick sculptures while listening to live music amongst flowers and friends. There is a small charge of $5 with some of the proceeds going to MANNA Food Bank. For more information about the Nature Connects, Arbor Evenings, or the Arboretum, visit ncarboretum.org call 828-665-2492.